This is one of my writes from last night’s workshop — the prompt was Sarah Vaughan’s rendition of “I feel pretty.”
I infrequently feel pretty. When I first came out fem, I had fantasies about being the movie girl in front of the vanity, soft lights behind me and brash up front, makeup and brushes and atomizers of perfume splayed all around on dresser-top ready for spritzing, dusting, lining, pearling: being That Girl.
In real life, I can’t habituate that girl, can’t hold her down and climb into her skin, and, more to the point, i can’t wait around for her to get dressed and done enough to daintyfoot herself into my skin. I have other things to do.
I’ve ached to be the pretty girl, the coquette, the charming klutz with the open face that guys — and then butches — just couldn’t help but fall into. But then, in real life, I was more interested in being one of the guys, which is sort of the opposite of pretty girl — isn’t it? — unless maybe you’re a Queen, and then when I say “guys,” I mean it ironically.
I put pretty on sometimes, but even then I keep ragged and rough and mussed and so pretty looks more like trashy, which I’m a lot more comfortable with. I idolize pin-up girl glamour and couldn’t in a million years sit around in front of a fucking mirror every day long enough to get that glass-like gussied, just to hoof it right into a mud puddle and then whine about getting scuffed. I prefer glamour that’s already ready to be smeared, that shows the true meanings of the word, glamour: a spell, witchery; glamour that lets the flaws, the real, through: shows unplucked chin and moustache beneath glitter and dark bands of eyeliner.
But these things do not make pretty. Pretty has a fragility to it that I just can’t hold myself to, am unwilling to always be (yes, Ani) the kitten who needs rescuing, the one who won’t eat for fear of stains, the one who won’t run ’cause her shoes or skirt are too tight — I am forever running pantyhose instead, and tearing fabric so I have a better range of motion.
What if we recalibrated pretty? But why should we, when so many other words fit better: smart, dirty, mouthy, unfettered, dangerous, roguish (yes, thank you, for a fem), calculating, powerful, aware, articulate, strong — what if all of these are places of power for that which has been relegated to the land of pretty?
What if pink got to hold its full blood history again? The color of healing scars, of early arousal, of the just inseam of bared teeth: pink is not a dainty thing. Pink is the early blood, the foreshadowing, the heather of orchids.
I claim my right not to be pretty, to take interesting and exotic with pride, to swelter into the other labels of an engaged and cracked femininity laced with a boyness I just can’t let go of all the way, not after I got so accustomed to its weight and musk after so many years –
I could do pretty when I was a boy, absolutely get all the transfags who mince into pretty as their finally due, who get to hold its danger in their hands and on their face now. Pretty boys make me want to squeal, ’cause they’re dangerous, they walk with pretty and a dagger all at the same time, all hands on deck: pretty is never something for a boy to aspire to, and must always be wiped clean — we fight for what we’re not supposed to have.
I want to give any unworn pretty to these boys and their welterweight badness, learn something about the precision of desire and naming, learn something about the audacity we all require to wear our pink and chewy hearts on our sleeves.