Browsing Category

Essays

Essays

Nicole McCarthy

January 20, 2016

Matrimony in Four Parts

1. Spectacle

Ceremony: A rite or observance usually regarded as formal or external; or is it an empty form? Often regarded (and articulated to us) as symbolic or traditional.

My Fair Wedding, a television show hosted by famed wedding planner David Tutera, asks women from across the states to put their wedding in the hands of an expert at absolutely no cost. The rousing reputation that follows Tutera is that he’s not known for planning a wedding under $100,000. He makes the venues more grandiose, the wedding dresses more extravagant, and incorporates intricate floral and décor designs that could rival Martha Stewart on her best days. Networks such as Women’s Entertainment loop shows like this one on continual reruns, as well as Say Yes to the Dress and Bridezillas, to teach us the twenty-first-century ideology behind the ceremony: the spectacle. Should we care about companionship or about the designer dress adorning our bodies? Should we put our faith in everlasting love or the eight sets of fine china listed on our registry?

Weddings in China seem to exist not only to bind two people together, but also to display the family’s impressive wealth. Ten course meals for guests are common, and the bride is on display in up to three different wedding dresses throughout the event to demonstrate the impressive opulence of their social status. In Italy, after guests have gorged themselves on a plethora of pastas, the bride dances around with a satin bag in her hand, the sole purpose being to collect funds to help pay for the ceremonious affair.

We’re told through the art of subtext that it is undesirable to be alone. Dating websites cater to us to help find a significant other, even doing all the grunt work to search for your soul mate, saving you the months (or years) of soul searching and isolated anguish that is associated with dating, all for a reasonable monthly fee. Some websites even simulate the existence of a significant other so your friends and family won’t conclude you are a lost cause. Imagine being out to dinner with a date and things seem to be going well, but slowly your date becomes taciturn and distracted. Do you have lettuce stuck in your teeth again? Should you not have mentioned still living with your parents? Your phone buzzes on the table next to you and as you preview the text message, your date, abruptly possessed with intrigue, asks who it is. You tell them (with a knowing smirk) it’s another potential date. For twenty-five dollars, that scenario could occur as an artificial Internet wizard behind the curtain will lovingly dote on you through text messages and emails to give the appearance that your life has meaning because you found a partner. What about the prospect of living an independent life? At what point did we decide that we absolutely had to be coupled? Is it happening for pleasure or profit?

The wedding industry has evolved into just that: an industry. Capitalism got its hungry hands on newly engaged couples and cashed in on their impulsive, lovesick minds, forcing them to reconsider their intimate church wedding of twenty for the razzle-dazzle destination wedding of two hundred. Weddings in America are competitions now; within each lavish ceremony are brides looking to one up each other to prove their lives, and love, are more powerful than others. You can see the subtle expressions of boastful egotism if you look hard: in the seven-tiered cake; in the twenty piece band; in the three-hundred-plus guest list. Marriage marks a certain level of success; a box checked off on a long list of to-dos. Our society has successfully sold a tradition as an exhibition.

Is it still about love? Are we now being conditioned into getting married?

Initially, I was dazzled by the rings I was given as a “token” of tradition: 1.5 carats, 34 diamonds, white gold bands. The intoxicating glimmer, however, is all part of the spectacle. I was, at one time, entirely swept up in it. Sometimes I look down at them and I just see something that I have to wear.

Continue Reading

Essays

Isabelle Davis

November 18, 2015

davis_image[EMOTIONALLY, I AM NOT DOING SO BAD]

1.  THE ARTIST IS UNIVERSE

the most important moments have been the moments in which i had to be quiet. not because i was following rules, but because to make noise would be to ruin & i knew that intrinsically. silence gives the moment gravity. it pulls my tree heart up & up from the ground & attaches it to the experience like a nest.

2. THE ARTIST SHOULD NOT MAKE THEMSELVES INTO AN IDOL

the piece starts in the winter & it ends in the summer & it lasts for 700 hours of gallery time. she sat & she did not move & she said nothing & she let other people sit & say nothing. & she called this art. & everybody cried.

on the last day people lined up over 24 hours in advance to become the last of the half a million people who went to go see her. one woman waited like this & took off her dress while marinas eyes were still closed & security would not let her sit down. she had to leave the premises. the woman cried. she just wanted to get closer to what marina abramović radiates.

marina lets people call her the grandmother of performance art. it has no grandfather. it does not need one with marina around.

Continue Reading

Essays

Marcia Aldrich

November 18, 2015

aldrich_photo cropped

During The Reign of M

From the beginning, the letter M hung over and shaded my life as if I had been birthed from the mouth of death. Sometimes it would be pleasantly cool in the eddying places of the M—mossy and green and well, meandering. But mostly I would get caught in the crux of the M and try without success to reach up and pull myself into the sun. Being fastened to the M was like being born in a meadow in the Midwest that a small river cuts through: all misery and mushy melodrama, mushrooms and mold, milk toast and milkweed, and I absolutely hated milk. As a young girl, Mother served whole milk in tall glasses, thick and unmoving—that made me gag and I was forced to drink or else I’d never be excused from my mother’s table. Ever. Sitting at the highly polished oval table on the cold slate tiles, the windows dark, staring at my untouched glass of milk, I saw myself growing old and my even older mother checking in to see how much I had managed to drink without a modicum of pity towards me even though she was on her way to death. And I made my way down the glass like the good martyr I was until it was bedtime and I could retire to mull the next day’s survival. A life of Mondays; imagine. Money and melancholy, maniacal machinations, manipulation, monotony, monogamy, mystery, manners, magpies, mud, missing things like love, trust, and happiness, mortgages, miniatures, mustard, mums, manners adhered to like plaster, mummies and mummification, metronome, marriage, no miracles, maximum detention, Moravian Seminary for Girls, always Mother, Mother, Mad Mother writ large in my girl story, mothballs and meringues, meaningful silences and stares, being woken up at midnight but not for mischief but to see my mother in her musty mint-green robe hanging over my bed with a cigarette burning in her hand, the Lady Macbeth of Macungie where I lived. During the reign of M, I fantasized about escaping into the letter H, crawling up one of its sides and sitting on its spiky peak above the fray. M inched along like a caterpillar, lumpy, rounded, soil mounded into gravesites or breasts, which were about the same. H was all lines, two thrusting straight up and one vertical, a crossroad, a bridge connecting the other two. I could see H burned into the hide of a steer, the stamp of territory. H had force, was not a mute, mild-mannered muddle. H sat at the front of the class and shot her arm up like a flash in response to the teacher’s question. H did not mutter under her breath and make it impossible to be heard. Speak up was what teachers said to M and not in tones of concern but said as if they’d like to munch her moth-pink lips right off her miserable face. H was a topper, a straight arrow, shooting for the stars. I pictured H standing on a hilltop surveying the world that lay before her. She would be hell bent on hilarity, heroism, putting her two shoulders to herculean labors. She would be a hellion rather than a mole, a hiccup rather than a murmur, a heroine rather than a mourner. When H appeared, crowds would send up a hooray rather than sink their heads and moan. H passed me once on the street in the bright morning light. She wore a red jacket with shoulder pads and her hair was burnished blonde like a helmet.
“ H,” I said softly, afraid.
“ What do you want?” she said. “ I’m late for an important appointment.”
“ H,” I muttered again.
“ Speak up, I can’t hear you.”
And on H went, without stopping. Eventually I accepted that no H awaited me, that M was my birthright, what I was and what I did, a marriage of sorts, the minion majestically holding up the edge of the casket merrily mincing steps on my way to the masquerade, remembering that touch has a memory, and that what touched me was M.

Continue Reading

Essays

Rochelle Hurt

October 14, 2015
Rochelle Hurt

Almosts

Salt was what I couldn’t have, so salt was what I wanted. My tongue ached for it. I dreamt of coarse grains between my teeth and woke with my hands to my mouth, the taste almost real. Of course, it wasn’t really the salt I couldn’t have, but what it contained—tiny molecules of iodine stacked two by two, fitted together like barbells. It’s hard to imagine these familiar shapes on a scale so small, contours similar to objects we can grab and hold—but they’re there. Inside one glistening crumb, a world that looks almost like our own.

o—o

In preparation for radioactive iodine treatment, I had to limit my intake of iodine to almost nothing for three weeks—to starve what was left of my cancerous thyroid gland, post-surgery. That way, when I drank the radioactive liquid, my dry, diseased tissue would soak it all up, desperate for iodine, and it would die. The cells would shrink and break apart into debris carried off and processed out of my system. I could have uniodized salt at home, but with no way to know for certain what kind of salt restaurants and manufacturers used, I had to avoid packaged and prepared food—not an easy endeavor for a working college student. I was given a cookbook printed from the Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association website. Everything had to be homemade and eaten in specific daily servings—four grains, one meat, one legume, limitless fruits and vegetables, if skinned. No dairy. No fish. No frozen or canned food. To help me start the diet, my mother had come for the weekend with twenty-four individually labeled Tupperware containers full of meals from the cookbook: cranberry-orange muffins, hummus, pesto, beef and potato curry, pork carnitas, pumpkin pancakes, sesame chicken, all in duplicate. They were mostly hopeful versions of normally rich dishes with all the processed ingredients left out—not quite enjoyable, but almost.

o—o

Continue Reading

Essays

Kathleen Rooney

September 25, 2015

Un Coup de Chance

The painting isn’t bad; the painting is “bad.” Loulou the Pomeranian feels the scare quotes vibrating the air around the frame, same as the loose brushwork makes the dry sky on the canvas vibrate. Paint bright, colors saccharine. The pig is fat and stands upright on two feet. The slate gray suit covering his turned pig-back makes him, supposes Loulou, a bourgeois pig.

It’s from his Sunlit period, so the master has set the image up to scintillate and wink, pretty and Renoir-like. But the content feels warlike, at least to Loulou. A strike designed by Magritte, who dresses like a bourgeois himself, to epater his own kind. To horrify his fans and his critics alike.

Continue Reading