When I was a little girl of about four or five, I was made to wear this dress for some unknown reason, for a now forgotten occasion: it was white on top and violet on the bottom, and smack in the middle of the chest was an embroidered appliqué of a crocodile, mouth wide open (thank you, Lacan). The woolly monstrosity was scratchy around the neck, scratchy around the armpits. The dress was miserably itchy. I was miserably itchy. I protested vehemently, cried, screamed, threw a tantrum—what possible reason could there be for subjecting anybody to the injustice of a hot, itchy dress?
Decades past girlhood, I find myself roosting in that itchy dress. Horror of unspeakable horrors. Maybe you all already know this, but in times of extreme stress, there is a comfortable familiarity, a pleasurable unpleasure (thank you, Freud), in the tendency to go back to being miserably itchy. Sometimes it’s so we can have a reason to repeatedly wail and scream without the burden of doing anything about it. Sometimes it’s easier to let the devil we know gallantly swoop in so we can get a little rest. Sometimes we don’t know what we want. Sometimes the words won’t come.
Extricating oneself out of the imaginary itchy dress and its impossibly tenacious hold isn’t so easy either. (Where’s that psychic Jaws of Life when one needs it the most?) Replacing it isn’t as simple as picking another one off-the-rack. It can’t be bought, it can’t be received as a gift, and most of all, it can’t be donned like a cheap costume. That new dress—in fact, the entire powerful, feminine wardrobe—has to be imagined out loud, fashioned from one’s depths, and owned like nobody’s business.
Many times I know to say not that—not that itchy dress, not that routine, not that path—but draw a blank when asked but what? And many times I unconsciously latch on to what others desire, unintentionally appropriating someone else’s wants, unknowingly silencing what’s truly, intentionally, inconveniently mine. A friend recently told me that some answers are not necessarily meant to be found. Some answers, she said wisely, come to be by being created.
So start already, I tell myself. Dream with eyes open, speak what’s been left unspoken, make, plant, rip, glue, birth what’s crying to be birthed. All a bit abstract, but this is as far as I’ve gotten. At least my journal is filling up, my sketchbook is getting fatter by the day, and my fingers remain crossed.