I do not feel sad or overwhelmed.

I do not feel “over the moon.”

My vagina feels like it has been mugged, beaten, and left for dead.

The last time I participated in a cyber-discussion on TNB in the comments section, I expressed my gratitude that authors, unlike actors or singers, don’t rely on appearances, and thus don’t have the same pressures—particularly those of needing plastic surgery to further their careers, specifically boob jobs. Besides, I offered, most writers aren’t that good looking.

 

 

A commenter disagreed, suggesting that plastic surgery might possibly help sell books. An author should do everything in his or her means to promote, including looking his or her best, whether through surgical enhancement or other means. Besides, boob jobs and plastic surgery are akin to braces and tattoos and teeth whitening and hair dye. A personal choice. Not a political one.

It got me thinking: If I got a breast lift, would I sell more books? If I lost ten pounds, would I be a better writer?

 

Recently I was on a panel titled “Getting Published” at the UCLA Writers’ Faire. My fellow panelist talked quite extensively about having a “platform.” A blog, Twitter, Facebook. A presence. These, she seemed to suggest, were more important than the writing itself. At the very least, without a platform, the writing, no matter how great, would remain unpublished.

It got me thinking: Do I need a blog, Twitter, and Facebook to be a better writer?

In other words, if I became more of a narcissist, and if my vanity increased, would my writing improve?

Nah.

I’ll probably gain ten pounds, let myself go, and stay off Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

Tighty Whities

By Don Mitchell

Humor

Do your your underpants express the you you hope they do? What about the locker room or the doctor’s office or when they’re sitting on the chair for the body worker to see (unless you’ve hidden them under your clothes, which is fairly nuts . . . here she’s going to be handling your naked body but no way, no way can she see your underpants) or like if you’re undressing for the first time in front of a lover. Can there be situations in which your underpants make things go very very wrong? Sure. I’ll tell you about it.

Last winter I was visiting some people I know, free spirits, California. I was complaining that I didn’t have enough briefs for a long trip because I buy them so rarely the stores never have the same kind the next time I need some, and I don’t know whether the new kind’s going to work for me. I have only a little vanity but I do have some, and I like to see if what I’m buying looks stupid, like a Speedo on a fat Russian at a Black Sea beach. And they won’t let you try them on, and I buy 3 packs, to save a few bucks, so that’s a lot of money wasted if I don’t like them. It’s overwhelming, so I put off going, and then I get stuck without . . . .

So I’m complaining about my underpant holdings out there in Fallbrook, California, where probably nobody wears underpants anyway. Fallbrook, California is the Southern California headquarters of the Aryan Nation. My friend Lake told me that they picketed one of the banks, something about illegal immigrants, surprise surprise, but nobody paid any attention to them.  I figure if there’s a town full of ex-military people spilled out from Camp Pendleton and when the Aryan Nation demonstrates nobody pays any attention, well, that most likely is a place where nobody wears underpants.

But I was wrong.

Out in Fallbrook my friend Rob listened to me complain, went to his bedroom, and came back with some tighty whities. He said, “Here, take these since you’re short.”

Short?

He said, “Notice the logo,” which I had noticed and pegged as some silly hangover from those fashion days when clothing had large model and serial numbers printed on it. Dude! My shirt has a lower serial number than yours!

So these underpants are marked 2(x)ist. And?

Rob said that meant they were sized for guys with big dicks.

I said, “Oh great, I wear these into the locker room and other guys say, ‘Hey check out asshole over there, guy wants us to know he’s got a big one.’”

I took them anyway, hoping that not many people knew that secret code, except maybe for the Aryan Nation guys. Rob gave me one 3-pack, and then two more, so I ended up with three 3-packs — that’s nine white Y-fronts.

Upside is that now my underwear drawer is nicely integrated. My black Calvins and my white 2(x)ists.

But the downside is huge. Forget about the dick advertisement.

The problem is that they’re white Y-fronts. When all my black briefs are dirty and I put on the white jobs, I become my father. I become my 95 year old uncle in his baggy tighty whiteys standing there talking to a doctor about his hernia. I become every limp old dude out there, me in my white Y-fronts, just like them.

What if somebody sees them? One time I was going running and it was chilly so I didn’t wear my shorts-with-liner, which meant I had to wear underpants with my lightweight tights. I had nothing else but the 2(x)ists and I thought, Jesus Christ, what if I get hit by a car and have to go to the emergency room and I’m unconscious?

And the ER doc says to the nurse, “So how old you think this guy is?”

And she says, “I’d say 70 or 80 from those loose tighty whities.”

And there’s worse. Like I only opened one of those 3-packs, I left one in Hawai’i, and brought one home to Colden. So there’s a 3-pack of white Y-fronts in a drawer in my house in Hilo. And one of my friends is going to use the house and he’s a very cool gay guy.

He opens the drawer, “Gah! Gah! And I like Don,” he says, “This isn’t something I wanted to know about him.”

The other sealed pack’s in the garage here, in the metal cabinet with the laundry detergent, the paper towels, that kind of stuff. I tossed it in there. Let’s say that my favorite plumber Bob’s at the house and he opens it looking for teflon tape. It’s all over for me, then. He’s going to say, “Oh shit. Look what happens when you run out of something. You got to see stuff you don’t want to see.”

Or what if somebody goes into the laundry hamper?

Comes to the house when they’re hanging on the line?

If Ruth gets angry at me and tells? Emails everybody she knows, with pictures?

So, yeah, you say, throw the damn things out. Stop worrying, get rid of them.

But how? What if the garbage guys see them? It’s not like your homemade porno tapes that you can put in the microwave or pass a magnet over so even if the garbos grab them there’s nothing to see. The bag might burst, and there’s the evidence, right there.

They’ll say, “We didn’t know he was that kind of guy. He seemed all right, but look at this. Next Christmas, we won’t even take his tip.”

I told my friend the Rolfer about all this and she tried to help out. I figured I could tell her because she’s worked on my old body. So she brings over a box of Rit dye. Black. But what if the Jim the UPS guy comes while I’m dyeing them?

“You need to sign for this. Uh, maybe I’ll do it for you.”

He probably won’t take his Christmas card, either.

So I’ll bury them in the yard. Gotta be the back yard. But what happens if the septic tank has to be fixed, and leach field dug up? The last time the septic guy came to pump we got started talking classic British motorcycles, AJS, Ariel, Norton.

He turns up the tighty whities with his Bobcat, he’s gonna say, “Saw a nice sixties Honda 50 step-through over in East Otto, thought you might be interested?”

Even the Japanese beetle grubs under the grass, waiting to grow up and attack my plants, one of them’s gonna go, “Shit, this milky spore grub control’s rough on me but you guys over there, looks like you’re getting it from milky tighty whities. Christ, whoever owns this place is a loser.”

My mother says that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. She says that beauty is only skin deep.

My mother says that I’m gorgeous. She says that I’m adorable. That I’m not fat, no, she swears, it’s the truth. My mother says I wish you could see yourself the way I see you.

Right, I say with a smirk. Through love cataracts.

My mother says there will be days like this. There’ll be days like this, my mother says.

* * *

We are one. An undulating mass of freshly shaven legs, glitter eyeshadow, cheap taffeta and hormones.

We are women. We are thirteen.

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones are playing. Or possibly Sugar Ray. “Bad Touch” or “Mambo No. 5.”

When a slow song comes on, people pair up. Pair off. Mary Nash with Roger, Anna with Alex. No one comes for me, though and “we” becomes “I.” Alone, I stand around for a minute, nervously picking at my dress. But I’m not stupid, not blind. I beat a hasty retreat.

I walk fast, with purpose, to the bathroom. In the mirror I can see that I am not what I thought I was. Under the fancy dress, I’m just me. Ugly.

I lock myself in a bathroom stall and hang my head between my legs waiting for the moment to pass.

I am, in fact, intimate with ladies’ rooms. With powder rooms and lounges, the loo and the john. In fact, sometimes I feel as though my life has been nothing more than a long line of evenings spent hiding in bathroom stalls.

* * *

My face is the shtetl. I am Galicia. I am the Warsaw Ghetto. I am Zabar’s. The new Woody Allen film. I am some tertiary Philip Roth character.

Because my eyes are dark and brown and heavily-lidded, they are often described as soulful. Or mournful. Sorrowful. There’s something of Susan Sontag in them. And there’s a bit of Rosa Luxembourg in my long, hooked nose. Or maybe Emma Lazarus. In my smile, there are echoes of Anne Frank.

I invite comparisons- not to movie stars- but to Holocaust victims and Ellis Island rejects.

Even my body is foreign: fleshy and puckered. Tits and ass and hips. I have unruly brown pubic hair. One part ChiaPet, one part steel wool. I have a faint mustache that I bleach faithfully. My hair gets greasy and my skin is dotted with fading pimples. I am neither svelte nor toned. It’s telling: there’s no English word for zaftig.

I am much too much.

* * *

I am not a pretty girl. I know this, but, at the same time, I’m hoping someone will come along to contradict me.

I’m not a pretty girl and the most I can aspire to is “striking.”

Striking. Or “unusual.”

In college, a friend asked me to be in her student film. “You have such anunusual face,” she said.

But everyone knows, of course, that “unusual” is the polite word for ugly.

* * *

Pretty is as pretty does, the saying goes. But the thing of it is, pretty does well.

Studies show that being attractive comes with plenty of benefits. Pretty people make more money, more friends. They get more sex and better jobs.

And while my mother would have me believe that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, science says otherwise. Beautiful people, they say, have symmetrical faces. Lithe bodies. Wide-set eyes and generous mouths.

Even babies know this.

In 1989, psychologist Judith Langlois found that infants have an innate sense of what is and is not attractive and act accordingly. The babies in her study stared significantly longer at attractive faces than at unattractive ones.

Which is to say that I am- and always have been- doomed.

* * *

Pretty is as pretty does, the saying goes. But women have always known this to be a fallacy. We know that all we’ve got is the curve of our ass. That a pretty face is worth more than a Ph.D. We know that when our looks fade, we will be irrelevant, obsolete.

We know this and so we spend our lives, our money, trying to be beautiful. We tweeze and we pluck and we shave and we wax. We curl our eyelashes and we host Botox parties. We starve ourselves or we corrode the pipes with our vomit. We go under the knife again and again. We buy, buy, buy.

And we never give up the hope, propagated by Hollywood and children’s books, that we will wake up one day and be- quite suddenly- transformed. A swan.

* * *

For women, looks matter. Pretty is pretty damn important.

* * *

I always knew this. And when I was sixteen, I decided that if I wasn’t going to be beautiful, I’d better be thin. If I was thin enough, I reasoned, no one would notice that I was ugly. Models, after all, are allowed to be unusual. To have crooked noses that meander leftward and asymmetrical faces. So I’d be thin.Yes.

Yes.

And for a while, I was. I was very thin. I was 95 pounds and then, for a moment, 88 pounds.

But I was also starving. I was puking in the shower and cutting my stomach with razor blades. And I wasn’t any prettier.

* * *

My friend Lacey recently tagged this awful photo of me on facebook. I detagged it.  Because I’m vain and I’m insecure.

“I look hideous,” I wrote on her wall. “And fat.”

In the picture, I’m in the midst of a story. In full flow, prattling on about something or other. I’m clasping my tote bag. Emily Martin’s The Woman in the Body is poking out. Maybe I’m extolling its virtues.

My breasts look enormous and so does my nose. I look heavy and cow-like and the photographer has, unflatteringly, shot me from below. Also, it’s my bad side.

And so I detagged the picture. Of course I did.

But I’m giving the picture a second life here. Because, when it comes down to it, this is what I look like. Living and breathing and reading and yes, eating.This is what I look like. Caught up in the moment. This is what I look like.

It’s not pretty, but it’s the truth.


 

My brain feels like one of those toys you have to push to make little bright objects bounce around in a clear dome over a loud grating noise.  Or a bingo dispenser, lots of stuff cluttering around and occasionally something comes out.  Or a garbage can at a rich person’s house or in a knick-knack store that’s going out of business.  You can see some good stuff in there but when you reach in you have to cringe past some gross gunk like banana peels and uneaten noodles and worse and you feel your way in the dark to find the valuable bits that can be wiped off, de-grossified, salvaged for future use.

Not to be dramatic.  I just can’t sleep so I’ll see what I can find in here (pointing to head.)

1.  At some point in middle school I went to a party where you could have your photo put on a drinking cup.  My friend Steph and I had two photos taken of us, and then each one put on a cup.  In one photo I looked really good and Steph looked okay.  In the other photo Steph looked really good and I looked okay.  I wanted the photo where I looked better but Steph said she wanted that one- why would she want to have a good photo of herself rather than one of her friend?

I forget what we decided on, but I felt vain and still do since if I were in the same situation today I’m pretty sure I would still want the better photo of myself.

2.  A few weeks ago I took a road trip to New Orleans with my friends Charlotte and Wilmot.  To pass the time in the car we played what turned into a sort of game- “Who Would You Rather Hook Up With?”  It was usually hit or miss, with many questions getting the answer – “Duh, of course (so and so).”

The fun was in thinking about the preferences of the person you were asking, and coming up with the perfectly balanced pair, balanced in either desirability or repulsiveness, and eliciting a “Hmmmmmm” or an “Ew!”

One of us wondered wether you could take all of someone’s answers and put them into a computer program that would figure out the perfect match.  Wilmot began, “But wait!  Rebecca, you said…” and I was somewhat skeptical of whatever he was about to say since he doesn’t know me as well as Charlotte and so had asked me a lot of “Who Would You Rather” questions where my choice had been obvious to me and Charlotte.

But he continued, “You said before that you would rather hook up with C over H, right?”  Yeah.  “And I’m pretty sure you picked H over G right?”  Uh huh.  “But didn’t you also pick G over C?  You’ve created a circle!  Or a triangle.”

Wait a minute.  I thought about it and he was right!   I don’t know how Wilmot had stored all of that information over the past several hours.  But I kept going over it in my head and it was true.  The answers had to do with the real-life context for each choice but it still blew my mind- and Wilmot said that my triangle would definitely be an obstacle for our computer program.

It’s really slim pickins in here today…what else?

3.  I first heard the phrase “slim pickins” in the movie “Lady and the Tramp.”

For years I thought the word “Buick” was a synonym for car, just like automobile, rather than a brand.  This is because when I was around five I was watching “Annie Hall” with my family and during the scene where Alvie is trying to kill a spider with a tennis racket and says the spider is the size of a Buick, I asked, “What’s a Buick?”

My mom said “It’s a car.”

So, be very careful what you say to your children.

I saw the movie “Murder by Death” for the first time last week and decided I want to start using the word “malarkey.”

That’s it for now.  Goodnight, sweet Internet.