The construction of a woman: a woman is not made of flesh of bone and sinew belly and breasts, elbows and liver and toe. She is manufactured like a sports sedan. She is retooled, refitted and redesigned every decade. Cecile had been seduction itself in college. She wriggled through bars like a satin eel, her hips and ass promising, her mouth pursed in the dark red lipstick of desire.
She visited in '68 still wearing skirts tight to the knees, dark red lipstick, while I danced through Manhattan in mini skirt, lipstick pale as apricot milk, hair loose as a horse's mane. Oh dear, I thought in my superiority of the moment, whatever has happened to poor Cecile? She was out of fashion, out of the game, disqualified, disdained, dis- membered from the club of desire.
Look at pictures in French fashion magazines of the 18th century: century of the ultimate lady fantasy wrought of silk and corseting. Paniers bring her hips out three feet each way, while the waist is pinched and the belly flattened under wood. The breasts are stuffed up and out offered like apples in a bowl. The tiny foot is encased in a slipper never meant for walking. On top is a grandiose headache: hair like a museum piece, daily ornamented with ribbons, vases, grottoes, mountains, frigates in full sail, balloons, baboons, the fancy of a hairdresser turned loose. The hats were rococo wedding cakes that would dim the Las Vegas strip. Here is a woman forced into shape rigid exoskeleton torturing flesh: a woman made of pain.
How superior we are now: see the modern woman thin as a blade of scissors. She runs on a treadmill every morning, fits herself into machines of weights and pulleys to heave and grunt, an image in her mind she can never approximate, a body of rosy glass that never wrinkles, never grows, never fades. She sits at the table closing her eyes to food hungry, always hungry: a woman made of pain.
A cat or dog approaches another, they sniff noses. They sniff asses. They bristle or lick. They fall in love as often as we do, as passionately. But they fall in love or lust with furry flesh, not hoop skirts or push up bras rib removal or liposuction. It is not for male or female dogs that poodles are clipped to topiary hedges.
If only we could like each other raw. If only we could love ourselves like healthy babies burbling in our arms. If only we were not programmed and reprogrammed to need what is sold us. Why should we want to live inside ads? Why should we want to scourge our softness to straight lines like a Mondrian painting? Why should we punish each other with scorn as if to have a large ass were worse than being greedy or mean?
When will women not be compelled to view their bodies as science projects, gardens to be weeded, dogs to be trained? When will a woman cease to be made of pain?