Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Your Typical Blog Post, for once.

I guess I might do that whole "meaty, introspective post" or "post on something that is not defined as Felice Ford for old times' sake" later today, but in the meantime I feel a pressing need to respond to a claim on a water bottle next to me. This was too long to post as a Facebook status, so I had no choice here.

This arrowhead bottle with a nice, ergonomic, hourglass-figure claims that the reason it's shaped so obtusely is because it is an "Eco-Shape Bottle", and it was "purposely designed with an average of 30% less plastic to be easier on the environment."

THIS IS A LIE. If they were going to be honest about the reason the bottle is designed this way, they would admit that it is for their product to stand out visually in the expansive bottled water aisle. Moreover, they would likely be more genuinely pandering to consumers if they peddled some bullshit about the more comfortable grip, going too far if they claimed it was to make it easier on people with arthritis. But the fact remains that if they honestly felt the need to reduce the amount of plastic used to make the bottle, they would either make it out of a different, biodegradable substance OR simply make the bottle shorter. But that would reduce the volume of water within, so any shape that can hold the standard .5 L of fluid would sufficiently serve this purpose as well.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Oldies: A poem about a death.

I honestly don't remember writing this. The filename claims it was on 5/25/10. I'm pretty sure it was inspired by some of my feelings at my father's death and funeral, but I think it ended up being a more generic description of losing part of your family. It fragments more than your family and your home; it fragments your life. It fragments yourself. Once again, I'm sure at the time I thought this was awful because it was during my dry spell, when I would sometimes push myself to write then regret the outcome and give up again. But I rather like it now. No title.


It was late in the month of May
And I slept in the church all day
Waiting for some shining god, or his priest,
To come and sweep me away

There were terrible ghosts in my head
Some of them not even dead
But the sound of the homily made me feel sickly
And the wine was a bit too sweet
So I called it a day

It was late in May

Crisp with shimmering dew
There were flowers and sparrows and
Pictures of you
With a smile on your face,
Hiding scathing disgrace
And me in your embrace
Smiles with tearful eyes

There were no goodbyes
Only the sorrowful dirge
Of a monotone wail
Wind gone out of our sails
A house of empty rooms
20 years, nothing left, because
It all left with you
Now we live in empty rooms

So late in May
I remember to this day
When the chaplain did speak
Of the glorious feats
Of the man who existed for the purposes
Of a soaring eulogy
So they cried for him, but not you
As we slipped into June
And the days became thicker than glue

But I lay on the pews
Dream of cobwebs and you
And the pump in my chest, under brutal duress,
Made me pick up my shoes
I said no goodbyes with no tears in my eyes
Only pride and a smile for what we went through
And with you, I said my adieus, and I left in June.



Two realizations on reading the poem now that I guess I must have known then as well: Second-to-last stanza is about the history rewriting that goes on after someone's death. No matter how complicated the deceased is - troubled, hard to live with, perhaps even abusive or sick - or how insignificant, in the eulogy, he becomes a saint and a hero. And beyond the eulogy, we remember what we choose to, in order to live with the fact that they're gone. The religious either convince themselves that they've earned a place in heaven or in hell; the less religious justify their resentment by recalling the negative actions he made while the guilty do the exact opposite. For a year or more, depending how traumatic the death and the aftermath are, this quasi-delusion continues and it's very difficult to hear other people with a different, even less extreme memory of the individual. But in time our memory is generally moderated; it can relax enough to realize both the good and bad in the person and his actions, and accept that we can still grieve for him without having to pretend he was a saint, or to admit that he can't be hated because he wasn't a monster. Very few people are saints or monsters. Too many people are convinced they know a lot of both in their lives. It makes them treat each other pretty poorly sometimes.

The last stanza just stands out because I don't remember what I meant when I wrote it. I think I was referring to my own situation: that I came home to grieve and deal with my father's death for months, then had to get up and come back to the East Coast to move on. I had to force myself to move on, in many ways. But I think it really means something else, figuratively and literally. It wasn't really about moving back when I wasn't ready. It's about moving on when you are. We lay in the shadow of a monumental death - I would literally lay upon my father's grave when I visited - and absorb the death, the finality, the crushing weight of memory. Then either we can't take the obsessive tragedy anymore, or we live in grief and memory so long that we can comfortably leave, feeling we've done enough, and then life does somehow move on.

In the few weeks after he died, I remember walking through the streets full of people and feeling like an a different way than usual. Not an alien: I was like a person who had just witnessed the end of the world, and was wondering why I was the only one who experienced it, why no one else seemed to care. The experience amounted to the end of the world for me, and for good reason, I think. This faded after a while, but the feeling that it would be impossible to move on anytime soon didn't. How could the universe continue without a center? How could I move on from something so desperately lacking closure, closure that I would never receive except for maybe within myself?

But my world did continue. It took me months to get back to Harvard, and when I did, I felt as if I did push myself to try to move on a little too soon. Some of the wounds were still open and I was still doing renovations on my shattered universe, adding a new fulcrum at the center that was the shaky column I had become. I was forced to be the center. Like every new adult, this is a terrifying burden to accept, even if it's necessary; it's unfortunate that many people have to wait so long to realize it and try to make it happen, because it's only harder when you're older. The same could be said of having to do it younger. Either way, I began shakily in late 2008, faking it until making it, then maybe a year before I wrote this poem, I got up the guts to not just leave the cemetery, but to admit that I didn't need to be there anymore. Now I could go back when I visited not because that's where my heart and mind still lived. I could go to accept the finality, accept that my life has moved on despite how significant the person gone was to my whole world (much as I hated and doubted it during our time together), and comfortably look at the grass his body was beneath and be okay with the fact that the bones beneath were where they would be until they disintegrated, and his lasting impact on the world would stay in the minds of those he left behind, the genes that he left behind in me, until they disintegrate, too. Moreso, that's how it should be. And I can accept that that will never change, for anyone who dies, no matter how saintly or how awful.

I no longer have to imagine my father as a saint to prevent myself from being destroyed by guilt. I can remember him for what he was. I know he did a lot of bad things. He was an incredibly good man with a terribly difficult life that made him do plenty of wrong things, things that hurt the people he loved fairly often. But he did them out of his own pain and fear and neuroses, not out of malice, and so he was no monster. He was my center and I'll never forget how significant that was. He made me who I am and it turns out that person isn't so bad, even if it's a fractured person who has to do a lot of work to stay functional and adjusted in the world. And I can do so with no tears, but with pride in what we had and what we went through.

Apparently that was in June - not literally, but maybe figuratively, who knows. I hate forcing symbolism and meaning on poetry despite lack of intention on the artist's part. Thanks, high school English.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Oldies: Gender Dysphoria

This poem is from 2006, when I was about 15, I think. I had just started to mess around with poetry and felt pretty incompetent with it; I tried to figure out how to make it poetic by making my thoughts feel more rhythmic, in a beat poet sense. God knows I didn't attempt meter or rhymes. Commentary to follow.


Not without gender,
But with an excess of it.

I am the Yin and Yang
United and coalesced to the milky gray
Of Wholeness;

I am the contents of the balance
Of the Universe and Man and Life

I am Mother, Father and Child
United as the entity of
Humanity Complete;

Not the snake biting its own tail,
But the snake eternally fucking itself
From within the womb;

And yet, I am also the truthless Mime
Whose gender is but a performance
Containing no trace of meaningful subtext.

My cock is red and virile,
thicker and slicker than that of Oscar Wilde's beau
and from its pneumatic insistence springs both the seed of life
and the thousand little deaths of Shakespeare.

My breasts are full and heavy
with the sweet nectar of sustenance,
pillows awaiting the mouths of babes
and offering the greatest comfort known
to heads weary of life and toil.

There is within me an open womb
and outside the member to fill it.
I am at once the penetrator
and the penetrated,
At once the heterosexual
and the homosexual,
Always the transvestite
in the rags of my other half,
Never quite sure what to tuck and what to bind.

The best and worst of both worlds.
A marriage in myself.
Without designation,
The unclassified embodiment of sexuality as a whole.

I fuck myself
into creation.



First off, for anyone who doesn't understand this distinction fully, this poem and what I'm about to discuss is entirely separate from my sexual orientation. I am bisexual, and have a similar combination of male and female INTEREST, but what I'm talking about here is a combination of male and female IDENTITY inside me. I understand if this is confusing, but there ya go.

As far back as I can remember, I felt a little odd about my gender. I enjoyed being girly when I was little but if I did it too much, I got very uncomfortable. I liked the option of being a tomboy often, but not often enough to BE one. It kind of evened out to something normal. But as I started going through puberty, I started moving in more extreme directions in terms of my gender expression and how I felt about it inside. For a while - late elementary school and most of middle school - I felt the need to go as far to the masculine pole as I could. I was interested in seeing what was happening to my body as I developed, but I started to hate the parts of me that were still feminine and wanted to come off as male. Maybe not as passing for male, but still I refused to wear dresses or skirts, and often behaved in the way I thought a man should. I spent time with girls but didn't like being around feminine girls; I might even describe some of my feelings toward them as misogynistic.

As I got older, I started to feel a little more comfortable with looking and sometimes acting female. I needed to go back and forth a lot, and both felt like a performance. I began to think that I was either somehow both genders, or devoid of gender at all. I would switch back and forth so often and so dramatically that occasionally I would be convinced I needed a sex change to be comfortable with my body, and if I needed to be female, I would be a transvestite, which I enjoyed anyway. Then the next day or week I would feel the exact opposite: I needed to be physically female, and be a male transvestite on occasion. The most comforting thing I encountered in relation to this gender discomfort came on a day in health class when a trans-male came to discuss gender expression, and he introduced the term "genderqueer" to me. It seemed so very appropriate at the time, and kind of does now as well, but I still felt frustrated with my gender regularly.

At the end of my high school tenure and shortly after college began, I began to realize that I could get away with my current gender. I didn't need a sex change and I didn't need to feel like I was lying if I stayed physically female. I could switch back and forth, be masculine or entirely male one day and female the next, sometimes even in the course of the day. It could be a performance, specific to context and environment, or it could be for my own comfort. And I wasn't just being a provocateur to do so: I was being myself without fear of breaking gender norms or fear of being too afraid to be entirely trans, if that was what I was hiding from. It helped that I no longer felt such discomfort with my female body (how curvy it often was) and especially with my sexual organs - I could find pleasure in them and not feel the need to have a hysterectomy to feel comfortable. I'm still struggling a little with embracing the fact that I am physically female and can be genuinely female without feeling gross or silly. I can even be romantic and submissive and wistful and like makeup without feeling like a stupid stereotype, because I know within me is the perfect mix of both gender types for me.

This poem seems to express where I was at the time in terms of how I viewed my gender, and the start of my acceptance of it and knowing how to live with it.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Past creativity re-evaluated.

Before I get ready to share my take on where my identity and life has taken me with the the internets (but moreso the people I care about who'd actually read this), I'd like to share something that approaches it, just like the music post I just put up.

Since about age 15, when my creative faculties were petering out and I desperately feared that I was losing it forever (which apparently meant that I was becoming something empty and not myself and I didn't deserve to live. I was really cute at that age), I had the attitude that nothing I created was of worth. Every image I drew was convoluted, attempts to make reality and failing, or copying masters without inserting anything deeper from my mind. Art, which should be for expressing that which you can't do in conversation, expressed nothing within me. Not even writing, which is the easier form because it's closer to expressing yourself in words to a friend.

Trivially, this meant I looked at my old art and writing, and the stuff I was writing then, and wanted to destroy it all. I was desperately ashamed of everything I made because they were talentless crap - less trivially, because they were devoid of substance, if not content. Luckily my mother - though it annoyed me to no end at the time - forced me to keep things, if nothing else than just for her.

This feeling extended itself in such a way that exacerbated my dying creative exercise. It got to the point that immediately after creating something, or in the process of doing it, or even before I BEGAN, I made myself certain it wasn't worth my time and I should give up before making a fool of myself. So I have a lot of incomplete stuff and just plain scratched-out beginnings on dirty paper full of eraser marks. There are a few exceptions but even those I avoided re-reading or looking at. This was easily applied to music as well, because I only did covers (as now) and felt like it was foolish to just try to mimic other people's art because I could add nothing, and I was incapable of increasing my skill, or having any in the first place. I loathed the people who insisted otherwise, like the people who insisted I once had and STILL had great skill as a writer and artist.

The funny thing is that this lasted as far as...well, a few months ago, even after my depression healed significantly. I think it's because, even as I was recovering in this sense, I still struggled very hard to express myself, in words but mostly beyond them. I tried to force myself, to do things like free-form writing which people told me was the best way to become a practicing writer again - as a great writer said, "A writer is a person for whom writing is excessively difficult". But nothing worked. And I used the fact that I was so embedded in being functional and a whole person with other aspects of my life as an excuse for not being creative: I had relationships, work, motivation to succeed, desire for a future and the ability to enjoy myself in the midst of stress. I don't see this as an "excuse" anymore.

But now, even though I still play covers of songs - though now I know how significant the addition of my own voice is, a voice I can now use with pride - even though I barely draw, even though I've only written two or three new bits of expressive fiction and non-fiction, I know it's coming back. I have enough space and introspective desire to be an artist capable of expressing myself in plain words and in the transcendent ways art allows one to express the life and views that make up a full person who knows herself.

And an interesting development in this came in reading some old stories and poems and essays I wrote when I was 15. I was on the plane and in for a laugh - which is usually my reaction to my foolish old work. But I was also wondering if there was substance then, despite the walls that locked me in from even my own feelings, and despite the self-loathing limitations I imposed. And I was shocked to find it in EVERY bit of work I read. And in the artwork I found in my notebook from a year ago. These stories and poems I dismissed as flippant now speak to me in ways that I never imagined. They show me not only that I was a full person then, as much as I hid it away and refused to let it shine, but that that person persists to this day, and has made me what I am now. I am not a new person, a new adult. I am Felice. I am what Felice always was, and the potential she had within her. It's the most beautiful thing I have ever experienced.

So I'll post a few of these interesting findings for a while as I gather myself enough to express myself in ways that don't involve screaming The Beatles on the ukulele. BEWARE.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Music returns to Felice.

It has been a long, long time since I felt capable of creativity. Part of this was due to feeling lost in work and depression that forced me to hate everything I was capable of creating, before it was finished or even before I began. I put down the ukulele and guitar that I once comforted myself with. Words lost their meaning, images could convey only boredom, self-loathing, and superficial exercises.

As I've grown inexplicably quickly in the past few months, this has taken a turn around. Music in particular seems to be coming back to me in beautiful ways. I listen to it. I sing - I sing with pride and volume for the first time in my life since perhaps the age of five. I play. I play for friends, on camera, for the internet, and in the streets. And it is making me feel strong and more myself, as are many things in my life. I see no signs of this stopping anytime soon.

Here is a taste of this trend. Most of these are in my street-performing persona, Charlo. But they include a grain of myself within this alternate visage. "Happy-Go-Lucky Me" is, oddly enough, the one that actually encapsulates me in a moment. Even in this one. [hyperlinking isn't working at the moment...]

I would be honored if you would watch some of these. They convey who I am right now better than anything else at the moment.

Harvard: The Ugly.

I find it odd that I forgot to post this part because it was rather fun to write.

My life is changing in very large and unexpected ways. And I embrace the lack of control and am stronger and more myself than I have ever been in my life. I can share this with you in person, before I manage to put it in words suitable for the internet. Either way, I'm back and I'm creative and I'm living.

I apologize for losing the format that includes pictures in these particular posts...


Harvard: The Ugly.

This is gonna be a challenge, but I know there's plenty. There's a prety seedy underbelly. Undoubtably #firstworldproblems. Serious considerations here.

- The people. There is intense elitism, entitlement, judgment, naivete, self-absorption, and competitive cruelty. I think almost everyone here has some combination of these, except for rare exceptions. Primarily the elitests come from entitled backgrounds, don't see the different needs of others, and either take advantage of their unfairly weighted options or piss them all away. Sometimes even those who weren't previously privileged end up this way, feeling as if their brilliance and superiority have finally been validated. These are the stereotypical Final Clubbers and so forth. The naivete applies sometimes to these, sometimes to those I previously mentioned in The Bad who just don't bother to live for themselves. They take advantage of what they're given, the people who serve them, and let others do all the work for them. They are born for the Bubble. The self-absorbed are parts of all of these, or the deceptively innocuous individuals who know nothing but how to talk about themselves, succeed, lord it over others and live for themselves. They refuse to see others because why bother if they don't have any use. The competitively cruel speak for themselves.

- The opportunities. This leads to two prime Uglies: undeserved privilege, and opportunities that don't really exist. Privilege is a catch-phrase in academia and social advocacy right now; I usually dismiss it, but here it can be made to apply. Perhaps you're unaware of your opportunities. Perhaps you just don't give a fuck and piss them all away. Perhaps you take advantage of them so that others can't, and lord it over all those jerks who didn't like you in high school even though you were clearly better than them. You got into Harvard and that H-bomb will follow you around for life whether you want it to or not. It can fuck you over, or you can use it to your advantage to fuck over others. As for opportunities that don't really exist, this comes in when we consider flexibility. Gen Ed is restricting. Pre-med requirements are restricting. Opportunities can only exist for certain people who take advantage or are presumed to be more deserving, more wealthy, more likely to succeed. Opportunities can be limited to things that only certain people care about, that are useless or trivial or entirely self-serving. We may have come to a powerfully academic institution, but some of us want lives outside of academia, and it can be scary to find them on our own outside the Bubble. Or maybe the real experiences that are worth having here exist outside the Bubble, making the Bubble and what it has to offer unnecessary, or detrimental.

- The support. Here's the tricky part where I primarily draw upon horror stories from others. Support can be painfully absent when it's needed most. It can be callous and avoiding. It can be completely useless and detrimental. Perhaps you're given time off, convinced to leave, and pushed into never returning. Legitimate exceptions can be pulled out from under you if you're deemed unworthy. The self-subsistent drive within and outside us could breed an attitude of "you caused this, you have the power to fix it". Get over it. Fix yourself or you're not worthy of yourself or anyone or anything.

- The flexibility. One can also argue that it's too much to choose from, it ends up being detrimental, it's undeserved. I went over most of these factors already. It can give false hope for the future, especially when one rejects it in the end in favor of a vanilla life of the guaranteed $100k job out of college that no one our age can honestly say they deserve.

The catchphrase here is privilege. Privilege, entitlement, privilege. We earned a lot but don't deserve as much as this. We need to give back. We need to spread the wealth and take advantage without hurting others or ourselves. There's so much more and so much more important things that so many of us do, but so many others refuse to - things that enrich our world, other people, or equally importantly, ourselves. We're useless to ourselves and the people we love and the people who deserve to be helped, who deserve privilege, unless we make ourselves the best we can be to the best of our ability. This can be a burden, but it's a burden that's more than worth bearing.

Don't really think a FUUU is appropriate here. A determination-FUUUU maybe. Or an ugly rage FUUUU that comes before all that inspirational lecture crap. So here's a puppy.