“Chai” means “tea”. So whenever you order “chai tea” saccharine sweet cinnamonmy goodness, you’re essentially ordering “tea tea.”
Steaming redundancies aside, I’m nursing a Chai while reading Sandra Cisneros. It’s the first time, in nearly ten years, that I’m reading her work, since our teachers last assigned House on Mango Street to us as children. Some background on Cisneros–she’s a Latin-American novelist, poet and activist. She oft writes about straddling the cultural in-between of being both Mexican and Chicana; of being the Other Woman; of race and class and living in poverty. Heavy context, good literature.
Unfortunate for us, though, we were too young to know what we were even reading. Most of this flew over our heads. It was also around this time, I remember, when they threw Animal Farm at our small heads scrawny builds as if we knew a thing about WWII. Like we knew which animal meant who or what scenario meant which–an allegory without the lesson is an empty tale. For the longest time I really thought it was just a book about talking animals bickering over tables, feed and inequality.
Now I’m a little older, though, I can better appreciate these books. I can nibble, munch, and digest the literary contents. Allusions don’t fly over my head; the craft doesn’t go unnoticed. Making little kids read meaningful texts is like offering a delicacy they gobble down hastily, without realizing its weight. I’m no longer a kid, but these books are still literary delicacies (that I like to pair with chai).
It’s a bittersweet day. Exhaustion’s hitting me in waves. At work I wrote stream-of-consciousness poems in my yellow fineapple notebook. I wrote about the way the sunlight filtered in, the way I let our presence expand, the way the green fabric folded, how I held onto time and just listened. There wasn’t much to say.
You’d think that saying goodbyes would get simpler, faster, easier with time. It doesn’t. There’s that saying about being grateful for having something in life that’s difficult to let go of, and it’s true:
How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.
But then bittersweetness just sort of snakes its way up up up, rising like bile. And there it is again: the melodies, the memories, the abyss.
Bought a calligraphy pen yesterday–now my sketchbook’s filled with inspirational cliches, looping around looking wobbly and vain.
Before the pen, I was using plain ol’ watercolor brushes for text. The effect is okay, but hardly calligraphy-esque–the font edges aren’t as sharp, and there isn’t as much variation in the lettering thickness. Here are some illustrations pre-calligraphy pen:
Now, I’m starting to combine calligraphy with watercolors. Still working on the lettering. It can be a little tedious, and every little hand-wobble’s recorded in ink, but it’s fun.
“You’re beautiful, but you’re empty. One couldn’t die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think my rose looked just like you. But in herself alone, she is more important than all the hundreds of roses, because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have sheltered behind a screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars. Because she is my rose.”
Doesn’t the notion of “you’re beautiful just the way you are” only reinforce the importance of beauty for girls? Even when the purpose of the phrase is to undermine society’s concept of beauty? i.e you may not look the way photoshopped magazine models do, but never fear, you’re still beautiful–
On the surface, it’s a positive concept. You’re beautiful, and beauty’s a good thing. Forget what society deems beautiful–you, alone, in all your imperfections, are beautiful.
But then I wonder what the male equivalent of this sentiment is–you’re strong just the way you are? You’re buff just the way you are? You’re loud just the way you are? That’s not true–might be a pervasive gender trope, but being a man doesn’t mean you’re strong or buff or loud just the way you are. And in the face of that reality, of falling short of social expectations, what are men told? They’re beautiful just the way they are? Not quite. There just isn’t–not that I can think of ATM–a male equivalent.
Although “you’re beautiful” and spreading this message of “listen here, girls, we are all beautiful!” Is uplifting in a sense, it just ends up reinforcing the importance of beauty. That, as a female, you can’t sidestep the significance of beauty. That whether it’s constructed by some amorphous blob called “society” or by your friends or yourself, beauty is still paramount, still inextricably tied to worth, and that you must be beautiful because–because beauty is something we all have and must have. It’s cyclical.
At the same time, I’m not necessarily saying that appearance doesn’t matter. Or that beauty doesn’t wield a certain sort of overt and covert social power. I’m more critical of how “you’re beautiful just the way you are” only seems to ground the importance of beauty in a way that skews female far more than it does male…when the entire purpose is to step away from social constructions of beauty. By repeating the message, you’re only inadvertently overemphasizing the significance of beauty for girls and women.