Did I get your attention?
As a writer whose fiction sometimes includes (gasp!) sex, I have a problem with the male genitalia. It’s not that I don’t like the penis – I’m a big fan. It’s because there is just no good way to say its name. Every word, whether scientific or euphemistic, either changes the mood, or kills it altogether. So I tend to write around the problem, by describing the act without naming all the players.
It’s 2018 and we’re garbage people now, management tells us at the morning meeting. “Not garbage men,” Larry stresses. He strokes his Pomeranian, which is wriggling in his arms. “Garbage people.”
I look from Duke on my left to John on my right, then raise my hand. “But we are garbage men,” I say.
“Shut up, Mick,” Larry snaps. The dog yaps. “You are a person, and what you think doesn’t matter.”
Photos by Erin Popelka
It was subtle at first. When Carpolina was 14, she noticed some scales forming around the base of her neck. Her mother always told her that puberty was a bitch, and to expect strange bodily changes around this age. Sure, the scales were kind of itchy, but in the lighting of the bathroom, they glistened. In high school, where everyone experiments with spoken word poetry and dramatic fashion statements, no one suspected anything when Carpolina showed up wearing turtlenecks. Continue reading
It’s early October, and that means I’m bracing myself for when the whole nation suddenly turns pink and social media turns to talk of boobs.
I don’t want to “save the ta-tas,” and I don’t need to see some football team wearing pink gloves or socks for a day.
Women are more than their breasts.
And before you call me a prude and tell me to relax (or take the stick out of my butt—yeah, I know how this goes), hear me out. Continue reading
I am not sitting in bed as I write this, and I am glad of it. Beds are terrible things, lousy with shoddy physics, crushed dreams, and sometimes, even lice.
A bed seems like a heavenly, therapeutic place. Ever since we upgraded from sleeping on splayed out hay (my uncle Shane still prefers this form of bed) the human bed has seemed like a lovely offering: four legs to elevate you, with a plushy surface on top to rest your corporeal frame, atop. The very invention of the bed seems like its creator got away with murder. Some shamelessly enterprising mind, at some point said, “Let’s not sleep on anything hard, anymore. Let’s put some marshmallowy stuff down, and go on top of that. In this way, we’ve made things better for ourselves!”
The unapologetic privilege of this maneuver suggests that beds were not invented by serfs.
O, the hypocrisy of a bed! A bed is manufactured for optimal niceness, but utilizing a bed is anything but nice.
It has been said that art represents humanity’s collective attempt to reconcile its own existence against an otherwise cold and uncaring universe. To strip away artifice, to obliterate pretense — to provide a context through which we may hope to define, at its core, exactly what it means to be a person. Which explains why art is so often heartbreakingly, unyieldingly, sad. Because, loath as we may be to admit it (and despite all of our attempts to the contrary), ours is a conclusively lonely existence — one fraught with sorrow, doubt, and, ultimately, disillusionment. That’s the torment heard in Juliet’s deathbed soliloquy, the longing behind the chords of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” the anguished panic pulsating through Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” And that’s the reason why, every Spring, I make sure to stock up on extra-soft, triple-ply, Kleenex-brand tissues in anticipation of the season’s most gut-wrenchingly devastating artistic offering: the premier episode of the ABC network’s hit reality television series “The Bachelorette.”
I will cancel my membership to L.A. Fitness next week. I’ll be moving at the end of the month, and I’ve calculated that I would burn more gas on my way to the gym three days a week than I would calories once I got there.
I’m sure the staff will try to talk me into staying. The curly-haired dynamo at the reception desk will remind me of the Monday morning spin class I never attended, the world-renowned personal trainers I never enlisted, or the squash courts I never entered. Or the whirlpools to soothe my aching muscles after spin class, training sessions and squash games.
But my mind is made up. I will cancel my membership. Continue reading
Dear Fashion Industry,
It’s time we opened discourse on a rather seedy subject in your world: prop clothing. Like the prop food adorning model furniture, prop clothing creates an illusion of actual clothing. The prop jacket may look as though it is completing your ensemble, but, unlike real outerwear, it offers no warmth.
Prop clothing comes in many forms- the super cute studded pleather “jacket” that’s “perfect for fall” but cannot keep one warm within the acceptable temperature range of fall in your region is a failure as clothing. It is a collection of cloth merely pretending to be a jacket and it may look like a jacket to all appraising eyes hence pulling off a “look”- but that is all and thus it is a prop.
#1 Cultivate social anxiety and some sort of an addiction. This will prevent you from getting a job.
#2 Scorn the work of other writers, preferably anonymously on the Internet. It makes you feel strong and powerful.
#3 Do not waste time ‘improving self-esteem’. You are a bad person. This is the only thing that makes you interesting.
#4 Do not read. It will make your work less original. Watch television if you need ideas.
#5 If anyone asks what kind of books you write say, ‘High literary fiction’. If they ask what this means, smirk and walk away.
#6 Do not strive for wisdom or insight. Concentrate on ‘cool’. If you need a definition of this, you’re missing the point.
#7 Never re-read one of your own sentences. You are a genius.
#8 Do not exercise or take care of your health. You have no pension or income and would do well to die as young as possible.
#9 Develop overconfidence and mediocrity in equal measure. It’s the only way to make people like you.
#10 Spend most of your time on the Internet. Everything else is distraction.
Rajeev Balasubramanyam is the author of In Beautiful Disguises (Bloomsbury), The Dreamer (Harper Collins) and Starstruck (The Pigeonhole). He was a winner of the Betty Trask Prize and the Clarissa Luard for the best British writer under 35. He is a fellow of the Hemera Foundation for artists with a meditation practice, and was recently write-in-residence at the Zen Center of New York City.