Look at SHE!

Tequila tears & terminal subjectivity

Just before the whole world shut down, we did a thing that we won’t be able to do again anytime soon: we went out after bedtime to see live music.

Giddy with doing grownup things but ragged from the week, I couldn’t just show up to the show. I didn’t have the capacity to do a new thing, be in a new space, or make small talk with strangers, so we detoured to a forgettable Tex-Mex restaurant where I smoothed the frayed edges of my nervous system with two margaritas.

Once we slipped into the (friendly, not overwhelming) crowd, the cocktail of anonymity, darkness, and tequila let me surrender to an epic emotional release.

I watched a musician perform and I was transformed by grief.

She was luminous, electric.

She was pregnant, a condition she nodded to with wry humor midway through her set. You could feel tension breaking across the crowd when she finally acknowledged it: no longer did we have to wonder.

From that point on, she mentioned her pregnancy just often enough for me to read anxiety into it.

What pregnancy isn’t anxious?

It felt as though with each mention, her music was being nudged aside by her blossoming belly. Even if she had wanted to keep the show focused on her music, not on the status of her womb and all the meanings we read into its occupancy, calling herself out as expecting felt like an expectation, not an option.

Here she was, at some not-insignificant point in a career probably built on persistence and showing up and lucky strikes and resilience. Here she was, transforming from a she to a they, her personhood and her career on some unknowable precipice, and she was required to perform that most private unknowable transition in real time, to strangers.

Male artists must never make space for making life. They may claim to channel a muse or genius, but never are they expected to cede their own primacy. Sharing the stage is always a choice.

But of any woman creator an explanation is required of whether, or how, she dispensed with her femininity and its limitations, with her female biological destiny; of where — so to speak — she buried the body. - Rachel Cusk

Projecting, was I? Of course. I don’t know this woman or how she understands her pregnancy in relation to her art. I don’t know how becoming a parent will alter her path. But I was brought to my knees (not literally, I didn’t kneel in a bar, gross) imagining the infinite small gifts she will give for this new life, and the infinite small sacrifices she will make. I imagine her nuzzling the prize of a downy head and wondering what might have been. I wonder if she’ll be able to reclaim or rebuild an identity that is hers alone.

When my daughter was learning pronouns, subjects came long before objects. “Look at SHE!” my two year old would exclaim, loudly, about a woman with rainbow hair. I would apologize, laughing, for my toddler’s enthusiasm, secretly thrilled by her unselfconscious energy and by the suggestion that the woman in question was a she—her own person, not a thing-to-be-acted-upon.

That night as the musician roared onstage, one hand fluttering occasionally to her belly in unconscious gestures of protection, I found myself weeping tequila tears for all that hung in the balance.

Look at SHE.

Media I’m glad I consumed this week

Thanks for reading. Stay safe, stay healthy. XO