Wordgame: Baby

I’ve just come out of a two-day water fast, I’ve got the day off work, and, before I turn back to my gleeful-first-draft-of-a-second-novel, I thought let’s pull something out of the elephant box.

I have never been one for pet names. But I am a sucker for an American accent. Any American accent; I am not remotely picky. My friend once pointed out my unconscious tendency to crane my neck overtly and immediately in the direction of any male American accent I hear. Which was sort of reassuring, because at least I know I’m not lying about it.

As such, I went through a phase of fantasising about a heterosexual American man routinely calling me ‘baby’. Don’t know why. But maybe I do.

It’s one of those words that only an American can get away with, as far as I’m concerned. Another one is ‘pussy’. Unless we’re talking about actual babies and cats, obviously. But if we’re talking about actual cats you have to say ‘pussy-cat’; you can’t just say ‘pussy’. To be honest though, thinking about it, it might just be English people specifically who make me cringe when they defy those decrees.

Up until fairly recently I ached to live in the United States. It felt like where I was supposed to be; like my true home. And once, when travelling in the US, I discussed this with a Canadian during a coach-ride-from-Santa-Rosa-to-San-Jose-long love affair. For the record, a Canadian accent is absolutely close enough to trigger my neurons, and they also benefit from much more favourable stereotypes, so there is that. He posited that my desire was the fault of all the American TV I watched in my youth. I did not like that reasoning. But he was probably right.

I watched a lot of American TV. I probably watched more American TV than I did anything else. The only thing that could have rivalled ‘America’ as a prevalent theme in my life was ‘horses’ and, to be honest, the two often happily overlapped. So, an American accent is probably as comforting to me as an equine aroma. It probably reminds me of childhood. Makes me feel safe. Fills the role of my absent father. Relieves the insecure attachments of my past.

Once, I was walking alone, aged fourteen, along a random street in Florida – could not tell you why – and a guy shouted out of their car as they drove past “you’re beautiful, sweetheart!” and the joy that filled me with lives in my cells. Now we could pick that interaction apart, and find many flaws, but we’re not going to. A male American accent to me sounds like relief. It sounds like invitation to someone who viscerally believes they are uninvited.

Which is weird. Logical, but weird. Kinda broken. A weakness unwise to admit to; so easily exploited it could be. So, yeah, if you have the credentials, call me baby. I’m curious to see what would happen.

Wordgame: Red

I am very partial to a red lipstick.

If I was the type of person to put myself together every day, I’d probably like to be a regular red lipstick sort of person. As it is, though, I only wear red lipstick about twice a year. And, even then, when it’s either Christmas or fancy dress, it feels like…a bit much.

I don’t know at what point I started training myself out of making statements. Started looking for all the reasons it wasn’t worth the potential downside. Started talking myself out of effort. I’ve been around a lot of people who scorned effort over the years – scorned my effort, sure, but also just the idea of engaging fully with life. I’ve never liked them for it, truth be told, but I’ve let their disdain for effort colour my behaviour nonetheless. Or, more accurately, uncolour.

I am not going to start wearing red lipstick regularly any time soon. I would like to say that I am, as an exercise. But I’m not. I won’t. I’d be lying. As I type this, I’m still trying to convince myself that I could. I’m imagining being the person who would do that. Reminding myself that, Once Upon A Time, I was exactly that person. Wondering if I can reconnect with that self. Wondering if I want to, when it really comes down to it.

Maybe it won’t be red, but perhaps a question to ask myself is what statement am I willing to make today? What statement am I ready to make? What statement must I make, regardless of readiness or willingness?

Wordgame: Anselm

I’m not the type of person who can walk into an major art gallery and name all the artists. I appreciate art. I have, to a very limited extent, studied art. But I’ve never been very pro-active about the whos and whats and wheres.

Anselm Kiefer, though, left an impression.

I saw a piece by Anselm Kiefer on a school trip to London and I was awestruck. I couldn’t articulate why, exactly. I just was. In love, and in awe, and in pain. I didn’t know anything about the artist, or have any clue of what the piece was, but it didn’t matter. He had me. And follow-up research confirmed my bias. But I didn’t honour the connection; I left it at that.

Ten years later, in Forth Worth, Texas, I entered the Modern Art Museum, and as soon as I rounded the first bend, my feet glided, hastily and of their own volition, across the gallery floor, toward a large canvas on the opposite wall. Anselm Kiefer, my entire body whispered with reverence. I’m gonna feel really fucking stupid if it isn’t, just a tiny little part of my brain warned with trepidation.

It was.

And the date I had left standing at the other end of the gallery, with no explanation, was enamoured with the display.

Do I think that might have been why, the next day, as I was heading to catch my train, he asked me to stay with him, despite the fact we’d met only three days ago? And do I think that might have been why, for months afterwards, he sent me messages to tell me of his plans to improve himself and his life, in what seemed like a desperate attempt to win me over? Well, yeah, actually.

If humans can project emotion – and they can – what I was projecting in that moment was profound. Vibrant, intense, ecstatic, pure. It was beyond me as much as it was within me. And if he caught it, well, that would be it. It’s the kind of thing you would chase.

Wordgame: Cracks

Well I do have plenty of those.

The parts things slip through.

Blind spots. Oversights. Areas of complacency.

But sometimes I can stare at a crack all day and not get any closer to figuring out how to fix it.

Points of friction. Dust collectors.

Bad fucking luck.

That’s why we avoid them after all. Scared we might fall in.

Wordgame: Archeopteryx

My son likes dinosaurs. I like dinosaurs.

My son likes learning words. I like learning words.

Because of this, I’ve learned a lot of dinosaur words. Archeopteryx is one of them. I can’t say I knew what an archeopteryx was before my son was around. I can’t say I didn’t know either, because I know a lot of things that I don’t strictly remember I know until the occasion calls for it.

I definitely did know what a stygimoloch was, because at some point in my adult life I had consciously decided to look up dinosaurs, so I could decide what my favourite dinosaur would be, so that, if anybody happened to ask me, I would have an informed response.

But stygimoloch wasn’t the word I put in my elephant box. Archeopteryx was. I wonder why.