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Modern dance performances and amber stones, by Eline Van Wieren

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Last weekend I went to a modern dance festival where young dance makers get to share their work with the world. One of the pieces I saw was choreographed and performed by a girl who I think was somewhere in her twenties, just like me. She was wearing oversized soft pink track pants and a black t-shirt with what looked like a heavy metal band logo printed on it.

In the festival folder, it said that her piece is research on the pre-consisting ideas and images of the female body. An exploration of how her body deals with loneliness, rage and sensuality.

Her dance isn’t what you’d expect dance to be. It’s not elegant and flowing. The movements mimic daily life motions so closely, it’s hard to know what it is that you’re actually looking at. You could even argue if this is dance. But I don’t want to be like the average close-minded fifty-something theatergoers that I’m surrounded with. I’m an art school student. I’m cool and I have a well-curated Instagram account. So I tell myself: Dance can be whatever it decides to be.

 The girl on the stage has long blonde hair in a ponytail high on her head. The music intensifies and she starts head-banging. The music softens down and she starts to undress. The black shirt and the washed-out white sports bra. The track pants she doesn’t take off completely; she lets them hang around her ankles.

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She starts rubbing body lotion on her legs, her arms, her belly and her chest. I know what she’s doing. This is a performance of self-care. A performance I’ve do every Sunday night, without an audience, trying to make it look natural. She rubs the lotion on her perfectly formed breasts. Breasts that would do well in a black and white photoshoot with a girl between freshly washed sheets looking into the camera caught off guard, showing everything but the nipple.

There’s also bouquet of flowers on the stage and the puts them in her neon pink panties. I look at her, sitting on stage under the bright lamps and think: I know what you’re trying to do. Being naked on this stage, trying to show the world that you’re allowed to do whatever you want with your body. But this is not a statement. You’re pretty. You have the body and the breasts and the pretty face. You’re exactly what people want a girl to be.

After the show I go to the bar and order a drink. I look next to me and there’s the girl with the blonde ponytail high on her head. She smiles at me and says, I love your necklace.

Thank you, I say. She reaches for the gold chain with the amber hanging from it.

She holds the stone between her thumb and index finger. Her forehead is about as tall as my collarbone and I look down at her bright blue eyes. Standing here in front of me, she looks so much more fragile than on that stage. She’s the kind of girl a man could wrap his arms around, pick up off the ground and there’d be nothing left for her to do than wait until he puts her down again.

She says, amber is supposed to turn negative energy into positive energy, but I don’t know if I believe in that kind of thing.

She is so nice and smart. I feel like maybe I should say something, about how I call myself a feminist, but still manage to judge brave girls who happen to also be pretty. But that doesn’t seem like a fun thing for her to hear, so I keep quiet. We talk about other things and her eyes whenever she speaks, her eyes glance down to my chest, where the golden-brown stone is laying between the folds of my t-shirt.  

At night before I go to bed I look at myself in the mirror as I take of the necklace and think of all the work that little stone has left to do.

 

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Fat by Eline Van Wieren

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My stories for Wide Open Writing so far, seem to all start with either coming home or finding a piece of mail on the doormat. Today’s story starts with both. Coming home and finding mail on the doormat. And for some reason, that makes me feel like a cheater. Like I don’t have the imagination to think of something more interesting to start with and so I’ll just go for what I know. But here we are. I come home and I find a package on the doormat.

I take the package in to our living area, where three of my roommates are. One of them is cutting vegetables for dinner at the kitchen table, another is sitting on the other side of the kitchen table, reading the newspaper. The third is laying on the couch, reading a book and listening to music. Coming home to this is something that has become so familiar to me, that I feel like I don’t need to describe anymore details to you.

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The package contains two things. A book and a small cardboard box. The book is written by a woman who I’ve never met in real life. But we follow each other on Instagram and we shared two long phone calls. Short excerpts from those phone calls ended up in the book that I’m now holding in my hands. The title of the book: Knap voor een dik meisje. (Which translates to: Pretty for a fat girl.)

In the cardboard box: a necklace made of gold string and a white ceramic plate. On the ceramic plate, in bold golden letters, is the word: ‘fat’. (In Dutch: dik.)

I laugh and blurt out, ‘Look how cool this is!’

I put on the necklace and show it to my roommates.

‘Fuck yeah,’ says the one cutting the vegetables and puts both of his middle fingers up in the air.

It is now the morning after opening the package. I just had a shower, after which I put on a plain black t-shirt on which the white ceramic and gold letters of the necklace proudly stand out. Fat.

It is also about an hour after I finished reading the book. My body is alive with recognition. This book has put to words some of the thoughts I didn’t even think were worth putting on a piece of paper. And now that they are here, that I can hold them in my hands, something has softly dropped within me. Something, I realize, that I’ve been holding up for quite a while now.

I think of a quote of which the last sentence every once in a while finds its way back in to my mind. Even though I can never really grasp its meaning. It goes like this:

“I explained to Warren the difference between male and female monsters. ‘Female monsters take things as personal as they really are. They study facts. Even if rejection makes them feel like the girl who’s not invited to the party, they have to understand the reason why.’

…Every question once it’s formulated, is a paradigm, contains its own internal truth. We have to stop diverting ourselves with false questions. And I told Warren: I aim to be a female monster too.”

-       From: I love Dick, by Chris Kraus

 I aim to be a female monster too. This sentence has something to do with the thing that just softly dropped within me. It has something to do with the idea of a universal truth. A truth that I am prone to believe does not exist. We all live under different circumstances, with different bodies and different memories. Different things ahead of us.

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It is easy to forget that under all those different circumstances, we long for the same things. Something that is maybe summarized easiest as: wanting to be seen. And the programmed thought that always follows after that undying desire to be visible: I must show less of myself in order to be seen as a complete human being. How weird is that?

How weird is it that I am a writer and that time and time again, I find ways around asking the questions that are most obvious to me? Because I tell myself they are too obvious. Because I’m scared that if I ask them, I will find that everyone but me already knows the answers. Because no one will understand what I’m talking about. Because, because, because.

Reading ‘Knap voor een dik meisje’ has been a fucking grounding experience for me and in my eyes Tatjana, its author, is a true female monster. We need these monsters. We need to come home, once again finding a package on the doormat. Opening it. Carefully looking at its contents. Going out into the world, wearing our necklaces. Writing about it.  

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