Rachel Pollon wrote an essay entitled “Change for a Ten” that appears in TNB Books’ new collection, The Beautiful Anthology. Here, Pollon reflects on what she has learned about beauty.

Michael Steele, former bass player for the eighties pop group The Bangles, released a statement this afternoon informing the world at large that due to recent and negative events in the world of politics she has made the decision to formally and legally change her name. Below is the transcript of her statement, read live to a moderately attended group of fans and reporters on stage at The Canyon Club in Agoura Hills, California.

 

Steele: Fellow Citizens, Seekers of Truth and Peace, STAR-FM Promo Department… thank you for gathering here today.

(She pauses to adjust her bass strap and decides to swing her guitar back behind her so it stops hitting the mic stand as she holds her notes out in front of her.)

Steele: I come before you today to ask a question. (Squints at paper.) When our freedom is compromised, what are we to do?

(…crowd mutters, sound of glass breakage in background, and a Barback yells, ‘Sorry!’…)

Steele (to crowd): I can’t heeeear you!

(Crowd quieter, more confused.)

Steele: I’ll rephrase. When something impedes upon our freedom, we have no choice but to act. Am I right, people?

She covers the mic with her hand in an attempt to mute it but is still audible, though muffled.

Steele (to someone in the wings behind her): Can somebody bring me my reading glasses?

A roadie pulls out his own pair from his t-shirt pocket and runs them over to her. He also offers her his vent brush from his back pocket, but she declines. Almost immediately, she covers the mic again and yells after him, “Why? Do I need it?” He shakes his head no, gives her a double thumbs up. She continues.

Steele: There comes a time in everyone’s life when the fork in the road ahead is bent in such a way that you can’t quite see beyond it to where it leads…and you have to make a decision.

She looks up to assess the crowd.

Steele: You. (She points to someone in the darkness.) There with the ripped Go-Go’s t-shirt. You made a decision to wear that shirt here today. Perhaps you chose to go down that road because it was the only side of the fork that still fit or was clean. But if you would have done your homework, you’d have known it brings up bad mojo. Remember 1987? The Jane Wiedlin comes on to my boyfriend incident? If you would have considered other roads, made an informed decision — a metaphorical pink and black striped spandex mini-dress, say — who knows where it would have led?

Someone in the crowd: Where’s Susanna?

Steele (steeling herself): But I digress.

She adjusts her guitar strap.

Steele: I have arrived at my fork. And I choose to take the road yet traveled.

Someone else in the crowd: Are you going to walk like an Egyptian on it?

Steele (ignoring): In recent weeks, nay months, an unrelenting nag on my psyche has forced me to a decision that will forever alter my sense of self and others’ sense of me.

The crowd is quiet, seeming genuinely interested in what she’s going to reveal.

Steele: Some might think that my parents naming me ‘Michael Steele’ was a burden from the start. Those people would be right. As a young girl, growing up with a boy’s name, I was constantly teased and chastised. I dreamed of the day I would develop breasts and could show them off to my tormentors. ‘Feast your eyes on these!’ I would say. And they would step back in awe and reverence to my luscious mounds.

Audience member: Ah-oooo-gaaa!!!

Steele (reading): But that day was not to come. I took after my grandmother on my father’s side, and grew into an extremely tall and thin thing, who eventually gained favor with her peers by being able to hide joints on the tops of door jams and paint apartment room walls without the aid of a ladder.

Possibly the same audience member: Show us your mounds!

Steele: My point is that I overcame this burden. Time, and the natural cycle of the mystery of the developing body healed some of it. And by locking down my heart so no one could penetrate it and hurt me further, my transformation was complete. I was Michael Steele. Michael ‘I Wouldn’t Fuck With Me If I Were You’ Steele.

A door opens in the back of the room, and daylight is emitted. A silhouette of a man is visible along with a dolly with boxes piled on it. The silhouette says loudly, “Where should I stack the toilet paper?”

Steele (visibly unnerved): Despite my past, and the adversity I have reconciled, in recent weeks the hardship of sharing my name with Republican Chairperson Michael Steele has become too great. The accumulation of his blunders and the imminent firing, forced resignation, or muzzle wearing that inevitably will become part of his story has landed me here. I have been mistaken for him via email, via regular mail, via Facebook – even though I have my actual face as my picture, not a photo of my cat, or the actress most people tell me I look like, or a kitschy shot of some candy I liked from childhood—

Another audience member: I like Abba-Zabas!

Steele: So even though my Caucasian, female image is displayed prominently on my Facebook wall, according to my fan page administrator, Barkley, I’m still getting messages for the black, male politician Michael Steele.

Audience member/possibly a reporter: Is it true you’ll be taking a trip to Afghanistan next month to assuage the concerns of our troops over your statements against the war?

Steele: Can you see me? (Back to her notes.) And so, just as my parents made the decision to name me Michael Steele, setting me on the arduous path that would become my life for lo this many 40 something years, I have made the decision to take back my name… and make it my own. From here forth, thanks to the jackassery of both my parents and the politician Michael Steele, I present you with the new me… the me of my choosing… Michelle Steele.

Number one fan: Hi, Michelle!

Steele: I thank you for your time. And I thank you for respecting my and my family’s privacy during this transitional stage.

Yet another audience member: Do we have to re-like you on Facebook?

Steele: I’m honestly not sure how that works.

Audience member: Can we expense our drinks to the Republican National Committee’s tab?

 

Questions from the audience were taken for another five or so minutes. When the press conference was officially concluded all in attendance were treated to a sound check by Ms. Steele’s newly formed band Rush Limbaugh.

 

Author’s note: The “Ms. Steele” depicted here is a figment of the author’s imagination. The real Ms. Steele simply had the misfortune of sharing a name with a current political figure. Which got the author thinking. And it devolved from there.