evening afterthoughts

He says I intrigue him. I swallow a blush and consider the ways he intrigues me. At least the ones I can articulate. We sit, and talk, and share. Be vulnerable with one another. I share about this blog’s start, and refer to my mouth and teeth with a gesture of my hand and say “this stuff”. I share it like this because I don’t want to cry, because I don’t know quite yet about how to talk about this, because in spite of my insecurities I am secure he will not judge and we will revel in the ways we intrigue one another and tickle one another’s brains.

And, I am beyond grateful that the universe smiled this evening and whispered, “Remember who you are,” bringing with her a sweet, sweet friend who sees me and doesn’t turn away.

Once upon a time I spun oral yarns of dragons, fierce revolutions, daydreams and nightvisions, places where sex and desire meet edges of complexities and sublime artistry of skin against skin, desire against desire, screams and moans against moans and screams of ecstasy’s flight.

Did you know if one dreams about losing one’s teeth some say it’s about unresolved pain and loss while others highlight the need to let go? Perhaps this is just a beginning of  a tumbling return to myself and who I am evolving to be.

a tooth or four revisited (december 2005)

Six and a half years ago I wrote this post for my livejournal account. It was the first time I had ever written about my teeth, their connection for me to class, and some of the shame and pain that resides there. In the time between that entry and this one, I have been to four dentist offices. Nearly every one combined pity with shame. I had originally been looking for a piece of writing that described what it was like to lose a tooth. I am still searching, and hopeful I did no delete it or otherwise get rid of it. It expresses how I feel when people have told me “just go to the dentist”, or when people make teeth jokes, or ask me what the big deal is having  a tooth pulled, without ever realizing and sometime caring that this terrifies me and each time I lose a tooth, I feel like my very being is going to come undone because I am losing a part of my soul, inching closer to embodying stereotypes that cause nothing but pain and fear and overall… well, badness.

so anyway. here’s what i posted in 2005.

"I have never really written about growing up poor or the effects it has had on me later in life. In fact, I have written about it less than six times and I am34 years old. Once I wrote about it as I completed a scholarship form for the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival – that was the first time I actually wrote about being poor, about the border crossings I make consistently around class. Before that, I had only written briefly about it in my journal for an assignment in grad school. Other than that, I wrote about class when a friend of mine asked me about how growing up poor has affected me today. Today, I am uncertain about what I want to write about it.

I want to write this essay about my teeth, about the problems with my mouth, about the deaths of my teeth and what a loss I feel each time a tooth is pulled. Someone asked me today, after I stated I had a yet another abscess, if the dentist was going to pull all the teeth out of my head. I cannot count how many people have asked me similar questions. Luckily, last week when I went and had a tooth pulled, my friend Aaron went with me. In the moments after I was finished with the dentist, Aaron rubbed my back as I cried on the way back home. No explanation was needed. I just cried, and felt this awful loss … again.

There are not words that I have found yet to describe the loss of my teeth. It’s like losing a member of your family, family of origin or choice, but someone, somehow closer. It’s that feeling in the back of your throat, when you want to cry, but cannot. There’s no way to reclaim the piece that is gone, the piece that was once part of you but exists no more.

There is no way to reconcile the truth that if I were wealthy or middle class that I would not be in pain, that I could have the work completed on my mouth without having to answer questions from the dentist or her/his assistant(s): Why haven’t you fixed this before? Do you know how bad your mouth is? How long has this been going on – don’t you have a regular dentist? Why do you want vicodin? Um, yeah, you cannot have anyone in here with you. Your “friend” will have to leave.

The moments I have spent in the dentist’s office have been and continue to be some of the loneliest and most isolated I have ever felt.  It is worse than watching my house burn down as a high school student and the church ostracizing my family because the paper erroneously reported that the fire was started by a smoldering cigarette. It is worse than waiting in the line for government cheese and peanut butter when I was a child. It is worse than my partner severing our relationship on Christmas Eve in 2003. It is worse than having my first pap smear as an undergrad and the heterosexism and homophobia that visit was abundant with.

Usually I write better than this. It’s just that I am a loss for words when it comes to my mouth. To know I would not have to suffer this pain if only I had money is a pain in the ass. To beg for the visit to be “counted” as an emergency so my stopgap health care will cover it is ludicrous and absurd. How do I explain that it IS an emergency, that it will continue to be an emergency because I cannot afford to pay the full amount, that I am a volunteer in this community and I have no support net, no parents to fall back on, no hidden trust fund or savings account? And, if my boss can work something out with the dental clinic, how much do I owe my boss, to repay the debt? To prove I am one of the “worthy poor?” Of course, this is partly my shit, partly society’s shit. However, if I cannot speak, if my mouth stays infected, I will not be able to eat (this one is on the bottom) or work.

I so fear that I will eventually lose all my teeth. If I do, will I still be appealing to other folks? Will I still be sexy? What will I tell people who think, when my Southern drawl emerges, that contrary to the stereotype, that I am neither stupid or unlike many people from Appalachia. That not all folks from the country lose their teeth but a lot of people who grew up poor and who are still struggling without insurance do – and that has nothing to do with growing up in the country? How will my speech patterns change? Will I ever be able to eat again without thinking about whether it will hurt to chew again?

Growing up poor, struggling to not be poor, has affected my life in visceral ways. My teeth remain the prime example and I am at a loss for what to do.”

Write the story that you were always afraid to tell. I swear to you that there is magic in it, and if you show yourself naked for me, I’ll be naked for you. It will be our covenant.
Dorothy Allison

A little bit of direction

Dorothy Allison, a Southern queer writer who has inspired me since my undergraduate days in Kentucky, once told her students to

Write to your fear. 

Over these many years, I have often written what excites and challenges me, the moments where it is a toss up between fear and success, the nanoseconds left to choose vulnerability and risk it all or slink back under the shadow of superficial and meaningless conversations.

I have had my Tumblr now for quite awhile, and in the time I have had it, I have not posted one thing. I have felt stymied as a writer, not for lack of inspiration. The stuckness had everything to do with being a bit afraid to write for fear of what I wanted and needed to write about to move myself in any direction would not correspond to one another. When I realized what I needed and did not want to write about, I pondered and dragged my feet to articulating the thoughts I did not want to share, did not want to talk about, did not want to show emotions about. All of this made me consider that perhaps the need to write about “it” and the not wanting to was informative and a part of the universe trying to “teach” me something. A few expletives have already been hurled towards the universe and I am sure a few more have yet to be.

You see, I need to write about teeth. All kinds of teeth. Nice, straight even teeth. Crooked and missing ones. Decaying ones and artificial ones. Your teeth. My teeth.

What they mean in the United States about one’s personhood and the assumptions that go along with “good” teeth and “bad teeth. what it is like to lose a tooth, let alone many. This is not a very inviting topic, or even a feel good topic. For me, it is a very personal, very public topic given that I work in higher ed. For me, it shakes my core, and yet reaffirms all of the struggles and successes around equity I have fought for. More than this, though, it shakes me at my core because teeth have a way of bringing people together and setting them apart, of being at the heart of whether desire takes root or one’s self-esteem and confidence shine through… ultimately, I think of whether, how, and the extent to which one has community — especially queer community which is but one of the things I yearn for.

I am not sure where these postings will take us, or me. I just know that it feels important for me, to me, and maybe it will take on a meaning for you. Whoever “you” are.

Jeannette Winterson wrote “What we risk reveals what we value.”  I am risking my heart here, and some of my innermost fears and ramblings. And, I value places of dialogue, hope, resiliency, authenticity and laughter. So, here we are… at a crossroads of direction and always a work in progress. I hope we become compatriots or backporch gigglers, or just a person or two who meets on a journey to somewhere else and yet remain thankful for our time together.