Dear America,

Baby, I love your particular strain of capitalism, how its muscular hand caresses every part of me, everything in sight –I have always loved a firm hand, Baby.I love how it has turned everything into a product, one that looks suspiciously like my own body. I love how this has made me hate myself, and hawk myself, and fostered an extreme poverty of imagination in my young self, and in everyone I have ever known.

I love how this has forced my imagination to grow bigger. Because to live in you, Baby, I’ve got to be big, I’ve got to grow to fill the space that you don’t cover, not with billboards, not with wrapping paper, not with snuggies or makeup or powerpoint slides or music that makes me want to buy shit. Baby, I’ve got to have strong bootstraps, to always be pulling myself up by them, Gortex bootstraps, sport utility bootstraps, strap-on bootstraps.

Darlin, I love your food-grade plastic, because what would I have done in the years before I discovered crack and heroin?I love that reading was my first drug, that you enabled me to wack off to stories about men and women fucking, women and women fucking, men fucking meat out of the fridge, women fucking dogs, because not only do I feel a sense of sexual entitlement that I did not learn from your teachers, but I also feel entitled to write about whoever the fuck fucking whomever the fuck they want and is willing, and not for a moment do I fear for my life.

Baby, I love you especially because most of the time, I take this for granted.

Honey, I love that your institutions of education failed to meet my imagination half-way. I love that when I went to the appointed counselors of these institutions for guidance, they too suffered from a lack of imagination, a lack of inspiration, a lack of information. I love that this, along with my sense of entitlement, thrust me out into the world, fluent in the wrong language, so that learning to learn was like being thrown off a cliff and told to fly.

Baby, I love you because I did.

Sweetheart, I love that you can take a tool as magical and powerful as a television and use it to manufacture food grade plastic. That you have the balls to call reality something that has nothing whatsoever to do with it. I love that this dearth of true stories has not only allowed me to escape reality for necessary amounts of time, but also necessitated that I write true stories my own.

Baby, I adore all of your sweet systems: your laws and leaders and prescriptions and transit adjudication bureaus and assembly lines and lotteries, because when this staggering division of labor and power fails, it reminds me to depend on something bigger than all of that.

Baby, I love that you make me deep fried anything, that you make people so flawed and fearful and brave and fat and complacent, breaking my heart on the subway with all those little ugly things they do to make themselves pretty, to make themselves invisible, to make themselves immune to suffering- that I can’t help but love them.

Baby, I love that you give me so much to fight against, so much to choose from, so much to grow around and through, and up with. Baby, I love that no matter how much I boast a disaffection for your charms, I swoon in you, indulge in you, crave you. Like my mother, and my father, and all your slick and weary systems, I come from you.If that’s not a kind of love, Baby, than I’ve been wrong all along.

And Baby, I can’t help but love you the most in MY city, where your musky neck smells of donuts and vomit, piss and plastic, money and oil and lipstick and home. Where your touch feels like a thousand tired shoulders brushing against mine, your breath like the suck of a thousand trains burrowing under these rivers. Where your heartbeat shakes me like a thousand street drums, a thousand car horns, a thousand peels of public laughter, a thousand skyward wails asking you please, Baby, come back to me, be good to me, give it up for me, hold on to me a little tighter; I know you have it in you, because I know I’ve got you in me.



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MELISSA FEBOS is the author of the memoir, WHIP SMART (St. Martin’s Press, 2010). Her writing has been published in Hunger Mountain, Salon, Dissent, Glamour, The Southeast Review, ReDivider, Storyscape Journal, The New York Times, Bitch Magazine, and The Chronicle of Higher Education Review, among other places, and she has been profiled in venues ranging from the cover of the New York Post to NPR’s Fresh Air. A 2010 & 2011 MacDowell Colony fellow, she has taught at Sarah Lawrence College, The New School, and NYU, and holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence. Currently Assistant Professor of English at Utica College, Melissa splits her time between Brooklyn and Clinton, NY. She is currently at work on a novel. More info at melissafebos.com.

8 responses to “My Funny Valentine: 
A Love Letter to the USA”

  1. Simon Smithson says:

    Man. If America doesn’t put out after this, then… well, I don’t even want to think about it.

  2. Erika Rae says:

    “Baby, I love that you give me so much to fight against, so much to choose from, so much to grow around and through, and up with.”

    I love that.

    I call sloppy seconds.

  3. Kip Tobin says:


    quite an all-inclusive fuck-off i-love-you (but mostly fuck off) if i’ve ever read one. not what i was expecting in the least based on the title, as i was pleasantly gripped by where it took me.

    very striking poetic prose if i’ve ever read it, in epistolary form.

    welcome to TNB, or welcome me to your writing…

  4. that’s beautiful, at least this object of desire is capable of producing people like yourself with enough imagination to create something like this.

  5. Richard Cox says:

    Living in the US is like having a lover you fight with nonstop, but who you can’t leave because the sex is too good.

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