Hoarding Hurt

I think admiration is dangerous.

The thought first came to life on a bench in Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn. My lips on a cigarette that I had no use for anymore. Holding on to the worst part of someone somehow felt better than letting them go. Pores of people all around me soaked up the sorrowful smoke, sounds around me shrunk into tiny echoes, and I was alone, and no beautiful fog hazed memory could change that. 

Trying to condition myself into a realization that it was the unanticipated end of an era had only worked so well. My heart still hadn’t forgotten the rush and pull I felt when his hand first dropped a cigarette in mine. Untouched beauty and tragedy rolled into a gesture. Moments like those, I lived for. 

I never once craved the feeling of a smoke. The only thing I ached for was an attempt to substitute him with the feeling he gave me. It was a sappy thing but it made sense then. Hoarding his habit in hopes he’d remember me with every puff, the way I remembered him. 

I still wonder: at what point is there nothing left except for the nostalgia I create for myself? In my phone I store a keepsake list of crushes and songs that remind me of them. I listen and lust over my missed connections, losing hope every bit of the way. Ultimately, there’s no reason for it, but it’s easy to prefer the past over the present. Getting tangled up in our dead and buried romances and our happy-go-lucky reminiscences only creates pseudo happiness; momentary joy followed by hours of brooding. 

But still, knowing this, there I was, on a pier with my friends, Marlboro Lights in between our fingers, pain in my chest. Guilty, I felt guilty. This wasn’t what I wanted for any of us. Had I known earlier that it was easier to become addicted to the “once upon a time”s than to the actual nicotine, I would have never confused the two; never let the blueness of his eyes imply the blackening of my lungs. Had I been wounding one part of myself to numb the aching of another?

Once again in isolation I stared out onto the water, feeling nothing but a slash across my chest with every plucked guitar slide in my earbuds.The cigarette reminded me of one missed connection while “Sarah” by Ween blasting in my ears made me miss another boy from time ago. I wanted to be back In that car, back in his arms, back in any of their arms. 

All I had to do to bring myself back to where I’d once been, was scroll through my playlists and play the melancholy melodies of the month that I was missing. This time it was August. Ah, yes… August: I’d almost forgotten the outward rush of hot air from every grate in New York City. The heat that matched my momentary warmth when I heard him speak my name for the first time. Something typically ordinary felt so personal. And by the end of summer, my body really had melted. I felt my heart drip onto my stomach and my lungs collapse into my thighs. Melodramatic – I definitely was, but in all fairness, a thing is only brought to remembrance when it is called to remembrance. And recollection was to me, what Heroine was to Lou Reed (or to any heroine addict, perhaps). 

All things must come to an end though; good things, bad things, all things. A year of continuous heartbreak and I hadn’t cried once, till this moment. With no time to dream it was over, I hadn’t realized just how over it all was. Playing tricks on my body so I wouldn’t feel the impact of being left on my lonesome in the midst of every moment of happiness I’d found, was completely deleterious.

No wonder I couldn’t stop living in the past, I hadn’t processed the dead beat-ness of every missed connection I’d made. But to me those past connections weren’t considered missed yet; there was still hope.

I thought that If the hope hadn’t been lost on my part, then the other person always had the opportunity to rejoin me and start up where we had left off. My transient weakness was something I felt I had to be embarrassed about, but really this was the strongest I had been all year. Letting myself feel was not weak, but overindulging in practices that were imprisoning me, was. The more I sobbed on the stairs of my home, the more I realized It wasn’t just that one boy who caused this inner deterioration, nor was it all the other people that let me down and let me go in earlier years, It was myself. I hadn’t let myself feel, breathe, and accept my present boy-less state. No, I couldn’t get him back. No, I didn’t have to hold on to his bad habit. Yes, I would have to deal with it. I had pent up my hurt in playlists, cigarette smoke, and daily sulks.

But truth be told: hurt is almost impossible to mask. That night, I let go of all of it; the sweet smell of last summer, the way I felt as tall as him when we laid side by side, the way he called me beautiful; not cute.  I knew I couldn’t erase my past, but I certainly would not be trying to relive it anymore. 

The smoke cleared out and finally, I could see his evanescence; how it always lingered behind all of his inimitable whim-whams and seemingly candid words. I woke up one day and every moment was a fleeting moment; every seed once planted was now a daisy, dried up and defunct. The only thing remaining was the memory; my memory

But still, I knew… if the next boy’s stare was gripping enough, I would gladly suffer through it all again. 

 

Photo by Lucy Welsh

Critical of the Norm: Anette Sidor on “Fuck You”

 

DoubleTap is an interview series with creatives whose work explores sex, body and identity.

In terms of pure, visceral eroticism, Swedish director Anette Sidor’s prize-winning short film, “Fuck You” is off the charts. It serves as a potent reminder that the stigmas limiting our sexuality are not only in regards to how we define our orientation, but how we choose to explore it.
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Newcomer Yandeh Sallah, of the Swedish series “Eagles,” plays Alice, a young woman who finds herself drawn to wearing a strap-on phallus, much to the amusement of her peers and bewilderment of her boyfriend, Johannes (Martin Schaub). Yet Alice’s journey of sexual discovery isn’t played for mere laughs or titillation. Once the film arrives at its deeply satisfying climax, the audience is able to share in Alice’s newfound sense of fulfillment, which she has achieved by revealing a part of herself that would normally be cloaked in shame.
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Sidor recently took time to chat via e-mail about her efforts to obliterate such norms, the vitality of representation and the power that exists in us all.

 

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What provided you with the initial inspiration for this movie? Was it spawned from research or personal experience, or perhaps a combination of the two?

The idea was pretty clear to me from the start. I was thinking a lot about how me and my friends behaved during our teenage years, especially when we were both girls and boys hanging out together. Inspired from that time of my life and with the knowledge I’ve gained since then, I wrote “Fuck You.” So it’s a combination of personal experience and my interest in gender norms, what I saw around me as a teenager and what I still see around me now 20 years later.

 

How have sex toys like strap-ons provided both genders with an alternative forms of sexual expression?

Sex toys are often seen as taboo and they challenge gender norms since they encourage people to explore their sexuality, try new things and to play with power. In “Fuck You,” there is a situation where the main character gets the opportunity to challenge gender norms by questioning her boyfriend’s thoughts about girls. Instead of following the norm, he gets curious about her new side and they both get the chance to explore their sexuality and experience new things together.

 

Yandeh Sallah, who is so marvelous as Alice, exudes a sense of empowerment while wearing the strap-on. To what degree would you say she is empowered, and what sort of conversations did you and Yandeh have about it onset?

We had conversations about how we see gender norms around us, how norms can affect us and how important it is to see images that are questioning norms. Power is something within us. We all have power and control, no matter who we are – but gender norms often create situations where men gain power rather than women.

In “Fuck You,” the strap-on is a symbol of power, which Alice first tries on as a funny thing, but then she decides to keep wearing it. This ends up challenging her boyfriend and their friends, who don’t know how to respond. Later when she takes it off, she still feels the power within herself. The image of a girl with a strap-on is challenging and for some people even frightening, even though it’s just a toy made of plastic or silicone material. The lack of stories and images of women in power is something that drove me to make “Fuck You.”

 

How did you and cinematographer Marcus Dineen go about visualizing the internal experience of the characters through such techniques as keeping the camera at the eye-level of Johannes as Alice approaches him with the strap-on?

Marcus is an amazing cinematographer and our idea was to let the camera move as one’s own character. In that way we, as an audience, can observe and follow the characters in a very close way and see what they see. When Alice is in power, the camera choses to show Johannes’ perspective so that we can experience the situation with him, from his POV, as well as follow Alice without knowing what she’ll do next.

 

The final encounter between Johannes and Alice is viscerally erotic. What do you feel both characters are discovering about themselves during this sequence?

I’m happy you find the scene erotic and that image is also one of my favorites. In life, we learn that love, attraction and sex are supposed to exist in a certain way if we are a girl or a boy. We all want to fit in the norm, to belong, and most of the time, we do what people expect of us. For me, this film is about a young couple who, for the first time, ignore the norm and try something new. They both discover something they like about their own sexuality.

 

Has this film broken certain taboos in Sweden regarding frank explorations of teenage sexuality, and what sort of provocative conversations has it sparked?

Some of the strongest reactions I received came from women of different ages who said they thought the sex scene was really erotic and they realized they wanted to try and explore more of their own sexuality. There were also some men who came up to me and wanted to talk more about gender norms as well as why it’s so taboo for men to be passive and women to be active.

I’ve had discussions about why femininity and masculinity seem to belong to certain genders and I’ve heard stories from people longing for change. I have received a lot of love from people of color, especially black people saying they felt empowered by the film, people who felt that they could identify themselves with film characters for the first time.

I’ve also had many conversations about the lack of films with both women and non-white actors who gets challenging roles. A lot of people have reached out to me saying that the film inspired them to explore something they never felt before, something they didn’t even know existed within them. For me as a director, it’s an amazing journey and I’m very grateful that “Fuck You” has been, and still is, screened at some of the greatest film festivals around the world. I have gotten the pleasure to meet audiences from around the world—interesting, smart and fantastic people who have shared so many personal experiences and emotions with me. It means a lot to me and it has given me energy to keep on doing films that are critical of the norm.

 

For more information on Anette Sidor’s “Fuck You,” visit the film’s official Facebook page here

Bushes and How We Style Them

When I was 16, I drove my friend to her appointment in a strip mall to get a Brazilian wax. The only body hair I’d ever waxed were my eyebrows, sometimes my mustache. Nonetheless, I went for moral support and because she only had a learners permit and couldn’t drive herself. 

I sat in the entrance of the salon and she was shown back to a curtained room. I studied all of the creams, serums, and products I had never heard of or used before. What is a female douche?

Everything was pale pink or purple and sterile looking. But the lady at the reception table was nice and the place smelled good so I sat there and waited. Some 10 minutes later my friend limped out of the room and paid for her wax. Once in the comfort of my car she said It fucking hurts, but it’s so smooth. It’s worth it.  

The tedious efforts of maintaining standards, styles, and fads of pubic hair is not only the modern woman/womxn/person with a bush’s dilemma — pubes have been styled, removed, flaunted and hidden many different ways throughout history. To look at the history of bush trends, we also have to highlight some events, inventions, people, and culture that shaped our hedges.

The history of female grooming began in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, where copper razors found dating back to ancient times. Commonly, women in Egypt removed pubes with pumice stones and women in Turkey used a method called sugaring: a natural removal using hot sugar and lemon juice. Other methods were far more painful and dangerous.

The ancient Greeks were obsessed with pure and immortal bodies which is why all of their nude depictions of Gods via sculptures were hairless. Men and women of the time were influenced by this and therefore removed their own, mortal body hair. Literal statues were setting beauty standards. The western world followed suit, art wise, depicting nude men and women without pubic hair. 

In 1450s Europe, women would shave their pubes for hygienic reasons — pubic lice was popping off so they removed their hair, but still preferred not to be bald. This trend birthed the Merkin, a wig for your pubes. Sex workers were also known to wear these to cover up signs of STIs like syphilis. 

The next revolution of female body hair removal came in 1915, when Gillette released the first women’s razor, though it was advertised for shaving leg and underarm hair. Women’s grooming through shaving was now in the public consciousness. Then World War II brought a nylon shortage in the US; women could no longer use pantyhose to conceal their leg hair — shaving was in.

Shortly there after in 1946, the bikini was invented. So women started shaving or tweezing their “bikini lines” to go to the beach.

As time progressed and trends in fashion changed, so did the hair on women’s bodies. The 1960’s brought the mini skirt; as hem lines hiked, women were expected to shave their upper thigh among other places.

Fastforward to the counter cultural free love and women’s movement of the late 60s and 70s — women embrace the notion that they could do whatever they wanted with their bodies, including sporting natural body hair. In fact, doing so became sexy. Sex symbols had full bushes and luscious armpit hair, rather then the manicured and conformist hair line down there. They were so popular that a thick bush earned the nickname of “70s bush.”

Despite the widespread popularity of this trend, something was bubbling underneath of cultural surface. In 1974, the first hairless vagina or “pink shot” was shown in Hustlers magazine.

Porn magazines like Playboy and Penthouse competed with one another for who could show the most revealing and exotic images. Researchers at George Washington University studied Playboy’s representation of genitalia beginning in 1953 — through the 70s and 80s, more than 95% of centerfolds and naked models had full, natural appearing pubes. 

But as the way we viewed porn became more voyeuristic, people didn’t have to stash their magazines under their beds, they could tune in on their computers… by the 1990s, more than ⅓ of models in Playboy had removed some of their hair. Now, less than 10% of nude models sport the full pubic bush. 

Men and women’s standards of what women should look like were affected by this. Many took to razors to shape their hair — during the 80s and 90s, landing strips were common. However, not everyone agreed.

Eve Ensler’s play, The Vagina Monologues, published in 1994, argued that removing pubic hair to please a sexual partner was silly at best, inhumane at worst — why would you want to look prepubescent?

In 1987, a skincare specialist in Manhattan from eastern Brazil named Janea Padilha began offering a signature service. Inspired while lounging on the beach sunbathing, she saw a woman walk by with her pubic hair protruding out of her bikini bottoms. She was struck by an epiphany — why not just wax it all off? The Brazilian was born. 

Janea and her six sisters opened their own salon called the J Sisters Salon, however, their signature service would remain latent in culture for about 13 years, until something happened.

In 2000, the popular TV show Sex and the City was enjoying its third season. In episode fourteen, Carrie goes to get a bikini wax — a wax removing the pubic hair on the sides of your bikini line. She’s shocked when the waxer gives her a Brazilian, leaving her completely hairless for the first time ever. She’s uncomfortable at first but the sexual confidence she gains from the wax leaves her radiating and ambitious. Arguably overnight, America had a new standard. While everyone had HBO or subscribed to SATC’s standards, but the show’s influence on women is undeniable — completely hairless was in. 

Celebrities of the early 2000s reinforced this trend by being wildly outspoken about their waxed parts — models Naomi Campbell and Eva Longoria famously waxed. A Salon article in 1999 noted the rapid increase of celebrity photos decorating the walls of the J Sisters establishment. “You changed by life!” Gwyneth Paltrow wrote. Victoria Beckham announced that she thought Brazilian waxes should be compulsory by the age 15. Kim Kardashian bragged to People Magazine in 2010 that her entire body is hairless. The beauty standard was set, being backed up by celebrities. 

Early 2000s fashion triggers a flashback memory of terrifyingly low jeans and odd styles — clothes were smaller than ever. Underwear and bathing suits were skimpier than ever. Digital and video pron featured almost exclusively hairless women and a bush had become a niche fetish. Laser hair removal was more available than ever and so were the number of salons where you could get a Brazilian wax. We were on the cultural precipice of the bald vag, and it seemed here to stay. 

And just when the U.S. was ready to declare the bush dead, American Apparel mannequins sported bushes in window sills in 2014. Gaby Hoffman sported her full bush in an episode of HBO’s Girls. Ilana Glazer also had a bush in an episode of Broad City, though it was partially censored due to cable TV guidelines.

Where are we now?

In 2018, Vogue published the headline “The Full Bush Is The New Brazilian!” According to NY Mag/The Cutas of 2016 an estimated 84% of American women reportedly engaged in some form of public grooming, including but not limited to waxing, trimming, shaving, tweezing, threading, lasers, and hair melting chemicals.

With the rise of a new wave of feminism, ideas around female beauty standards are changing, and we have begun to talk about antiquated or oppressive standards. Talking about bush styles used to be more taboo, we are having more conversations about our pubes. The attitudes around women’s bodies are changing — we’re reaching a point in culture and feminism, where women are questioning antiquated beauty standards. We are working our way towards celebrating all kinds of bodies, ones with bushes, landing strips, or bare, the attitude seems to be shifting to “each their own.”

Politically charged and inspired women have developed ownership of their bodies: shave or don’t or have a landing strip or write your name. Just don’t shove a ‘standard’ down our throats.

Paz Stark, owner of Stark Waxing Studio, told Voguethat cultural moments do have an impact on women’s preferences, “Ladies are saying, ‘I do want a cleanup, but I want it to be fuller and more natural feeling.’ I feel like Brazilians are 100% here to stay, it’s just on people’s own terms now.” 

 

Art by Travis Swinford.