09 December, 2013

Gelato, Espresso, And Trauma

presented by
Mystic Metals Body Jewelry

Gelato, Espresso, And Trauma

Quite a bit has happened to me recently. Mostly good, some bad, all very interesting. I had a sort of epiphany or revelation or other such biblical noun. I realized some things and have decided to steer my ship a little straighter. No, that's not a veiled reference to sexual orientation; settle down you professional outragists. I have some new goals, new ideas, and new reasons to do things. If this is all very cryptic, that's by design. You kids know me pretty well (some better than others; see also, Sunday afternoon tire shop in north Jersey), but I think that the specifics of what I plan to do and how I plan to do it will be kept undercover. For now.

For right now, let's talk about the past. Why would we want to do that, A. Robert? Didn't the past already happen? Well, yeah it did. And I'm sure some of you were there to remember it, if you weren't too blitzed on whatever to remember. Don't worry, though; everyone has a camera phone so you'll never have to worry about being an anonymous drunk asshole again. I want to talk about the things that have shaped our perceptions of beauty. Things that we don't typically like to drag out of the worn, attic rotten cardboard boxes that we stash in a dark corner, never to be seen until you have to move all of your shit to another place. And then you sit there with the stuff in the box, sit on the floor with your hand over your mouth, and the needlessly depressing drama starts. Opening credits, the whole film is a flashback. Let me frame this a little better.

I met a beautiful woman recently. Modified perfectly for her curves and features. Make up expertly painted like a renaissance fresco. Hair so perfect finishing an aesthetic that would make Cleopatra weep into her asp. That's asp, children. She was a confident girl. (The women I met; not Cleopatra. I never met Cleopatra.) Her tender fingers grasped comically a tiny tub of gelato. I drank a poorly pulled cup of espresso. And yes, I'm a dick for drinking espresso in public, and also a dick for commenting on its pour. But this isn't about me.

She spilled a little bit. Her feelings, I mean. And a tiny bit of gelato. The spoon was unreasonably tiny. She told me about some of her past, how she's built a protective shell against hurt, how she views herself through the lenses that others have made her wear. Simply, her eyes looked down at the frozen dessert mess in the cup, fluttering her long eyelashes and occasionally snicker laughing to buffer the gravity of the words she just let escape from her brilliantly crimson lips. I'm not going to tell you her story because it isn't mine to tell. She didn't give it to me; she shared it with me.

I looked at this goth angel stranger, and thought a specific idea. I enjoyed looking at her tattoos, her piercings, her makeup and clothes and all of that. And inwardly I looked at myself to understand my own aesthetic. I thought to myself, 'I enjoy my look. I like these ratty clothes, shorts in the winter, stretched lobes and various other stretched things. Shaved head, beard like choking moss on an old tree, tattoos by talented artisans. But my design is by protection. It is a creation by the necessity of discomfort to be eliminated by way of a sense of control I never felt I had. It is a reclamation of myself.' That's what I thought, and then I drank some of the espresso and realized it was made poorly and then I had a super quick fantasy of turning into the Hulk and throwing a 80s vintage S-10 pickup truck through the window of the place and yelling, "Hulk no like burned espresso." It's true; he no like it.

So we chatted briefly about the past in vague and veiled terms. And then I got pissed off because I realized something. I realized that I cannot turn into the Hulk. I also realized that what I was thinking and experiencing could be boiled down into some awful and simplistic motivational poster with a kitten and a duck on it. I realized that what I was thinking was an old idiom in action. It was actually a couple of idioms. The book and cover, the mile in shoes. All of that shit.

The place where I got my poorly pulled espresso had a high percentage of lookers and starers. You know what I'm talking about. Some places, some days just seem to have more interested or appalled people than others. We're all used to it, and when you can identify what may be the object of the stares, it tends to be simpler. Think about it. If you know why you're the staring object, then you can say, 'Yeah, I know; that thing is different than what you're used to.' If you don't know what it may be, you start the paranoid thinking that you have snot on your face or toilet paper on your shoe. In my case, I have a couple of possible staring scenarios. I have a beard that looks like a ferret's assisted living community; I have modifications such as stretched lobes and a big assed septum, among others; I have a wheelchair and I don't look like the kind of cat who should be in one. That's a staring stew that usually goes down the wrong pipe. I let it roll, typically. No pun intended. Well, yeah, why not; intended pun. When I get a starer, I'll give him the hello nod that has replaced the hat tipping of the untamed West. If he continues to stare, I'll say something loud but polite and usually include some kind of awful nickname in it. Like champion, or cap'n, or hoss. I like hoss. I'll say, "What's good, hoss?" or "How you feeling, my man?"

My talking about staring has two purposes. One is this. We all do it and there's really nothing wrong with it. That's how we gather information, and we're all guilty of it, assuming there is guilt attached to it. I myself stared at the goth angel woman. My thoughts were not ill nor judgmental in the malicious sense, but I stared all the same; and she'd have no way of knowing that I was staring in a positive sense. The second idea is related to the other bullshit I've mentioned in this disjointed blog. Ears can gather knowledge that eyes cannot. Eyes gather what is, but ears gather why it is.

The goth dame, the hoss who is staring at my lobes or chair or whatever, their eyes get the sense of myself. They get the trailer but not the film. Their ears, however, upon my explanation get the story. The purpose. Reason and logic and emotion and all kinds of other things that shouldn't go together but do. The hoss with the uneven mustache, spooky tooth, socks and sandals, vinyl fanny pack, and flip phone from before I graduated high school doesn't know about my past. My 'trauma,' if you want to believe what my shrink says is true, my reasons to modify. The reasons I can stand up out of my wheelchair when necessary (not all chair people are paralyzed, kids), the reasons why I paint my fingernails or cover my surgically modified face with a triumphant beard. Magnificently triumphant. And if he asks, I'll tell him, of course. I'm an open book when asked.

What we in the community, this beautiful and varied community of modification have to remember and realize is that our stories aren't written on our faces. They are represented symbolically by the jewelry and tattoos we wear, but most people, especially the unmodified, don't have the Rosetta Stone to decipher what they mean. We should offer them slight lenience until our offense and their offending purpose is true. I learned from the goth angel this which I already knew but neglected greatly. My assumption that the starer knows my entire file and the meanings of my jewelry cyphers is absurd and unfair to the starer. Now, don't get me wrong here; there are a lot of starers that make you feel as if you're an attraction at a zoo; some rare purple panda bred with an anteater and a molecule of a rare sea sponge which is the only creature that can explain "Lost Highway" in terms I can understand. But part of these needlessly escalated encounters are our responsibility to quell politely and calmly. I didn't know about the goth angel's past, her trials and woes, when I was staring at her; and clearly my intention was not to make her feel like the Lost Highway-panda-anteater-sponge. But context is a strong force in understanding foreign beauty.

I am glad I know her story, or at least have a sense of it, and I hope to someday see her again. Likely in a chance meeting involving gelato and poorly made espresso. If you're so inclined, I wonder if you'll ask of someone else's story. A stranger, or passing acquaintance who also frequents your regular spot. I wonder if that wipes some of the husky muck from the window through which you are looking at the world. I wonder if that context will bring you a better sense of self as well. I wonder if there is beauty I've not yet recognized. I hope so; it sounds exciting to discover. Stay beautiful, kids.

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