I barely took a picture of myself until I turned 40. But I spent yesterday with an old lover and it gave me an inkling of an answer: You really can’t go home again. Not because time is hopelessly linear but because if you keep on self-reckoning, eventually you outgrow obfuscation and objectification, diminishment and toxic possession. Shame. You stop saying, “Daddy, please approve of me.” You start saying, “Daddy, you have no invitation nor right to my deference.” Which is to say: you stop taking or talking jive. And maybe that’s why I take these pictures now. To remind myself that, despite the fact that I have aged out of viability in the eyes of patriarchy, despite the fact that I am untethered to a romantic relationship or biological family, despite the fact that I have very little cash nor clear prospects, despite the fact that I carry more weight than ladies are programmed to allow themselves, I am still here. At 48, I am more sure than ever before of who I am, what I can tolerate, how I can serve, and of the space I claim. So today I put on eclipse-season, mercury-retrograde, dowager-chic armor: a boob-revealing mini dress, platforms, 4D hair, lipstick, big glasses, fannypack—essentially I transformed myself into a 6 foot 4 spacecrone. And what I am saying—what I always am saying in Trump’s fucked-up, cockocratic, white-supremacist dystopia—is this: I’m not just a lover. I am a fighter. And I have earned the right to look back at you.
Money’s dear this year, which sounds like a Dorothy Parker stanza but is one of the myriad reasons I’m lucky to live in NYC—a miraculous place to live on the cheap if you’re resourceful. Yesterday with ten bucks in my pocket I ferried ($2.50) to the Metropolitan Museum—both Mets!—for one buckarino (1$) and entered an alternate dimension mostly pink and 100 percent fabulous: Camp:Notes on Fashion at 5th Avenue and Mrinalini Mukherjee’s Phenomenal Nature at the Breur; then the Chris Ofili show at David Swirner (free) and the nutty gallery that is Madison Ave designer window displays and designer rich-lady faces (free, at least for me).
Altogether it was a rarified world of wedding cake townhouses and mermaids with big cocks and tin-foil goddesses and licentious, lichen-ous trees. I even had enough left over for a pretzel with loads of mustard ($2) in Central Park, so lushly green that Edith Wharton would’ve found the terrain familiar. I felt what I always feel when prowling a NYC jungle not my own: joyfully restored, gratefully inspired.
My mother sewed the rosebuds on that leotard; I loved it so much. But what I notice most–and maybe the real reason for this oddbot magic—is how otherwise-unadorned I seem. Even at that age, I was always “on” in the presence of other people-—big grin, big lipstick, big shtick. Yet there I am, no makeup, no “camera-ready” face, just quietly submitting to an older girl’s ministrations. Even my hair is its natural color. In the eye of an eclipse season that’s blowing up the facades in our relationships, this picture makes me weepy. I’ve always been a feral sort of girl, but there I am, lapping up the mommy love. We’re never too old for mommy love.