Work in Progress: Rules for Ladies, and Ghost

You would be pretty if you wore the right shade of lipstick. If you counted your calories. If you brushed your hair. If you stayed indoors. If you tamed that muffin top. If you weren’t such a gloomy bitch. If your hips weren’t so wide. If you weren’t so smart all the time. If you weren’t such a cow. If you didn’t talk so much. If you quit arguing and said yes. To everything. When you retreat to the darker corners of the room, remember you are very lucky to be in the room at all. You would be pretty if you were grateful. You should post inspirational quotes on your Facebook wall to give you lift and radiance. Do a juice cleanse. Take a Xanax. Wax your bikini line. Everything will be just fine. #selfcare

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A ghost is a dissolved self stressing about dark circles and eyebags, lingering in places when they didn’t know you were really there. They never knew whether you had your own tongue. They never knew whether you ate, had a warm bed, a lock on your door. Did you have a door. Whether you could sleep. They wanted your nightmares. They wanted you to wear trauma on your face, with cosmetic correction, photo finish perfection. You brushed your sunken cheekbones with natural pearl powder. In a halter top, the angles of your shoulder blades had runway strut chic. You did this because you thought it made them see you.

A ghost is a dissolved self stressing about what to wear to her own dissolution. In a backless evening dress, every segment of your spine shows. If they see your scars, they will want you to present every terrible detail. Serve these to them with the banquet you have prepared. Let them savor the fragrant steam of you, jasmine tea, coriander, bamboo. Your bones have been simmering so long, your meat just melts away. Render your fat with love, and ladle yourself into their open mouths.

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In progress, looking for Pinay participation please!

Hello everyone, as I had posted on Facebook, I’ve been thinking I would like very much to “crowd source” my current manuscript, much as I did with To Love as Aswang. I always need to get out of my own head, my own assumptions, expectations, and imagination. As I am writing about being a “lady,” about “beauty,” and being “pretty,” I want to know what other Pinays are thinking and feeling about these things.

I previously posted a first draft of what is now becoming a long prose poem, tentatively titled, “Lady.” Below are more excerpts and rewrites.

[ley-dee] noun, plural ladies. 1. a woman who is refined, polite, and well-spoken: A lady must always smile, wear a slip, cross her legs, and keep her hands in her lap. 2. a woman of high social position or economic class: A lady must always consider what colors will suit her complexion. A lady must always match her shoes and her purse. 3. any woman; female (sometimes used in combination): A lady must always be beautiful to look at, and she must always exercise self-control. Even a lady doctor must always remember her station.  4. (used in direct address: usually offensive in the singular): Ladies, you must always be graceful in your movements. Lady, you must always mind your tongue. 5. wife: A lady must always yield her will to men, and she must always offer to prepare the meal. 6. Slang. a female lover or steady companion. A lady must always guard her heart, but she must always graciously accept.

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The truth is mild burning, stinging, redness, and dryness may occur. If any of these effects persist or worsen, tell your doctor promptly. Remember that he has judged that the benefit to you is greater than the risk of social isolation. Stop using hydroquinone and tell your doctor right away if any of these unlikely but serious side effects occur: blistering, skin cracking, blue-black darkening of the skin, much like bruising when the body has been struck. It may act as a cancer-causing agent (carcinogen) in rodents (vermin) after oral administration. We believe that additional animal studies, such as dermal toxicity and carcinogenicity, are needed to better understand if topically applied hydroquinone may be harmful to humans. It is a known human respiratory toxicant. You are already suffocating. Without it you are more animal thing than human girl. The truth is no beauty without sacrifice.

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A lady does not open her own doors. She does not voice her opinions or contradict. She does not frown, smirk, or slouch. She does not quarrel in public, place her needs before others, or perspire. She does not monopolize the conversation. She does not initiate or compete. A lady does not remove her shoes in public. She does not use her hands. She does not show her teeth. She does not laugh, shout, or scratch. She does not swear or smoke. She does not belch, fart, piss, or shit. She does not coordinate her own movement. A lady does not mind. A lady does not eat. A lady does not matter.

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“When a bamboo reaches its highest peak it bends back down to the soil.” You must never slouch, ladies, though you must always bend. Elegant, effortless. Bend, slender, there, at the waist, cambré. To bend is an art. Allongé, let wind, let waves pass through the vertebrae and sway. Bend at the nape with grace. No matter the strain or weight, the truth is you must allay. And may your body be the haven they claim. “The bamboo bends; it does not break.” To break is coarse, it is classless and crass. It is common. A lady is not common. You must always save face; you must not let them see you break.

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Things people say to you: Why must you be like this. Can’t you just please chill out. No one will want you. You suspect they are thinking: I don’t understand you. You scare me. It comes out like this instead: Smile. Girl, brush your hair. You crazy bitch. Why aren’t you married. You just need a man to _____. You could be pretty if _____. You should be more _____. You should be less _____. You aren’t _____ enough. Just shut up. You’re so dark.

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OK, now it’s your turn. Please comment below. In addition to responses to what I have written above, here are prompts:

A lady must always _____.

A lady does not _____.

You just need a man to _____.

You could be pretty if _____.

You should be more _____.

You should be less _____.

You aren’t _____ enough.

The only requirements that I have are that you are Pinay-identified, that you include your real name (i.e. no screen names only, no anonymous) in your response comment below (and please, only in the comments below; I can’t manage any more emails), and that, as with To Love as Aswang, you are OK with my somehow incorporating your response into this growing long poem.

OK, go! Salamat po!