My coworker’s daughter constantly calls her to ask questions about how to take care of her newborn and it reminds me that if I have a kid I won’t be able to call my mom when I have no idea what the shit I’m doing. No one tells you those things are going to keep hitting you four years later.
Michael Peterson a.k.a. Charlie Bronson is often referred to as the “most violent prisoner in Britain” and is the subject of Nicholas Winding Refn’s art house film Bronson, March’s film selection. The film explores, and ultimately ends with, Peterson’s evolution in to Charles ‘Charlie’ Bronson, a man who eclipses the person he originally was both in character and size.
Michael Peterson was initially sentenced to a seven-year prison term for committing robbery, his sentence ends up being stretched out due to what authorities see as his violent tendencies but we, the viewer, are given a peek in to Peterson’s head and know that his behavior is due to his desire to remain “a star.” We follow Peterson’s life from his formative years in Luton, England to his current residence, prison.
There were many things I enjoyed about the film but the lead actor’s performance stuck with me the most. Tom Hardy (of inception fame) portrays the title character in a way that is startling in its lack of fear. Shots jump from Bronson delivering soliloquies to scenes of him literally trapped in his own body while condemned to a mental institution to shots of him bare-knuckle boxing prison guards while greased up and nude, etc. These shots are filled with color and noise that are completely visceral and set to a soundtrack of 80s synth pop that, which not while incredibly subtle, highlights the dichotomy between what you are viewing and what you are hearing and only serves to heighten the viewer’s experience. Refn has you and knows you won’t look away from what he has put on display and much like the aforementioned film scenes; Hardy’s performance is similarly engrossing and manic.
The film does not end on a happy note and if you are looking for an upbeat film I caution you not to rent this one. In the end there is no redemption, and Charlie wouldn’t have it any other way.
for a short period of time I thought I was falling in love, I realize now that what I was falling in was a routine. Now I’ve met someone who makes me feel like I’m being turned inside out in the most deliciously painful way. I can’t even explain the feeling in a way that would make me feel like I’ve done it justice. Anyway, it has clarified for me what falling in love feels like and I realize it has been some time since I felt that way. Years, in fact.
EXT.DESERTED FAST FOOD RESTAURANT DRIVE THRU WINDOW. NIGHT
MARK, A MIDDLE-AGED AND TIRED LOOKING
MAN PULLS UP TO THE WINDOW IN HIS DIRTY WHITE DODGE DURANGO.
CHESTER, A GANGLY RED-HAIRED TEENAGER
APPEARS IN THE WINDOW EAGERLY.
CHESTER: Welcome to Tacos, Tacos, Tacos! May I have your order?
MARK: Um, can I get a number three with a side of nachos and um–
Mark searches the menu
–a Dr. Pepper
CHESTER: Of course you can, Sir! Can I also possibly interest you in one of our new desserts?!
MARK: No, thanks. I–
CHESTER: We have the Siesta Time Slice O’ Pie, The El Puta Madre Mini Platter–
Mark stares as Chester prattles on and notices that he is
CHESTER: The Pinata Pohtahtah, the Fiesta–
Mark cuts off Chester mid-speech
Mark looks at Chester’s nametag
MARK: Chester, Dude, I’ve had a long day and the wife is pissed at me so it’s going to be an even longer night. Can I please just have a number three, a side of nachos and a Dr. Pepper. Please.
(Mark’s tone brooks no
CHESTER: Yes, Sir. Coming right up.
Chester steps away from the window and Mark leans back in
his seat and sighs
(mumbling to himself)
I hope the kid doesn’t spit in my food.
Chester returns to the window with Mark’s order
CHESTER: That’s a number three, a
side order of nachos and a Dr.
Pepper. Your total is $9.49.
Mark wearily sits forward, pulls his wallet from his front
pocket and shuffles through the bills, he offers Chester a
$10. The two men exchange money for food,
respectively. Chester then stands back and stares at Mark
with an eerie grin on his face, his eyes waver back and
forth between Mark and the car exit. Mark watches all of
this, increasingly confused.
MARK: Keep the change.
Chester merely continues to stand and stares at Mark with
that creepy grin plastered on his face
MARK: Okay then, have a good night.
Mark pulls away from the drive-thru. Chester continues to
stand there grinning, his eyes moving back and forth. A
masked man steps up behind Chester and pointedly presses the
muzzle of a gun behind his right ear.
MASKED MAN: Good job, skinny. Now, how ’bout them
that as I get older and move away from the experience, discussing the miscarriage I had at age 26 becomes easier. I am lucky (for lack of a better choice of words) that confirmation of the pregnancy was the miscarriage; I had my suspicions but no solid evidence and therefore I didn’t have time to become attached to the idea of a life inside of me or being a Mother. But I think of her sometimes. Yes, I think she would have been a girl and she would have turned four this year. I would have named her Lucy and she’d have my dimples and her dad’s smirk. Thoughts are funny like that, they come from out of seemingly nowhere and rip you apart with memories of the past and the road untraveled. Oh, well…
well, not officially. I needed to “say” it aloud because it just hit me with the type of clarity that things only have at 12:30 a.m. when I’m avoiding homework and craving pizza. Burlesque is like therapy. This performance thing is deep. It’s about way more than putting together costumes and being pretty. The place I am working to get towards so my performances can be authentic is within my reach but getting there is hard. There is so much wrapped up in it that I, for some reason, forgot. I don’t know the first thing about choreography, I just like to move but with burlesque I find that because I feel so shy about moving in ways that are even simply sexually suggestive that I often have to exaggerate a move. Another performer once described me as having “shy hips,” which is true. But I realize that the reason the movements don’t always feel comfortable is because there’s a mental block I have to get pass and not because I don’t really want to do it or am inherently uncomfortable with the movement. The sense of discomfort and shyness stems from shame, definitely shame. And it’s not shame I feel regularly, it just comes out when I think about performing or am doing anything towards that goal. It’s all repressed Catholic bullshit. I’ve gotten over most of it but clearly not all of it. I’ve worked so hard to not be afraid of my sexuality and (to use a clichéd term) own my sexuality and am proud of the strides I’ve made in that regard. THAT’S why it’s so important to me, that’s why it’s a focus in my life, because I grew up in a household and religion where sex was this horrible dirty thing that was never spoken of. And anything I learned about it was secretly. That was a funny realization, obviously something as ingrained as that sense of shame is never going to be completely gone but it was funny to find it making me literally afraid to move. So I am working to get to the place where I can let out the imaginary performance Pammy who resides in my head. Imaginary performance Pammy is this sexy confident force to be reckoned with that guys don’t treat like crap and girls don’t fuck with.
This was my midterm project for my Human Sexuality class but it was an interesting enough exercise in recalling and writing that I’ve chosen to share it on the blog too. Enjoy:
No Poop, No Babies
This feels silly to type but I have always been a sexual person. I suppose saying that feels silly because we are all sexual beings, regardless of how that sexuality does or does not manifest itself. As a child I was extremely interested in sex and how it worked. I remember sneaking in to my Dad’s library to flip through the pages of his copy of The Joy of Sex and often taking it downstairs to ask my babysitter to point out what she did with her boyfriend if anything. I was a precocious child who was quite vocal about wanting to be a doctor as an adult so I think that initially calmed any worries my parents might have had about my preoccupation with all things sexual. This interest only intensified with age. I am aware that children masturbate from the time they are babies but as far as I remember my earliest forays in to masturbation were at age eight. I was fascinated by the idea of things being able to enter my body and spent an inordinate amount of time seeing what I could fit in there. I did not even consider clitoral stimulation until I was 18 and the first time I had an orgasm I thought I had broken my vagina and had no idea how I would explain it to a doctor, let alone my parents. I also had this first orgasm after sneaking home some lesbian erotica and reading it under the safety of my bed covers with a flashlight so that gave me cause for thought. Was I a lesbian? I was pretty sure I was not so this event was not only my introduction in to my own orgasmic ability but the idea of sexuality and what turns us on being fluid. Stimulation is stimulation; your sexual orientation can be separate from that. This opinion is not one that I came by lightly. My Father was a priest (Anglo-Catholic) and my parents were both devoutly religious. Sex was not a subject that was talked about openly or freely in my parents’ household. The extent of it being mentioned was my repeatedly being reminded that I should wait until marriage to have sex. My Father even once told me that if I had sex before I was married he would “crucify me” and my “Birds and the Bees” talk consisted of my Mother giving me a dated book on what to expect during puberty the night before I began High School. After eagerly devouring this book and finding it completely disappointing along with being completely un-enlightening I returned it to my Mother who nervously asked, “Do you have any questions?” I thought “Yes, Woman! Loads!” but could see that she was having a hard time so I simply replied “No.”
As I already stated, my parents were extremely religious and Catholicism is notorious for instilling those subjected to it with an overwhelming sense of sexual shame. These feelings of shame took me, what I feel was, an extremely long time to get over. I believe that even though I feel confident and comfortable in my sexuality at this point, working to not associate sex with any sort of shame will be a lifelong struggle. Those ideas are ones that I struggle against daily, not necessarily in my own head but because of ideas forced on me by outside sources (i.e. people’s hang ups, the media etc.). For a lot of people the idea of sex being something “dirty” or “nasty” is part of its appeal, for me that is not the case. I like to view sex as something natural, healthy and celebratory. I have done a lot of work to cull it in to that type of presence in my life and refuse to let that work be undone by outside influences.
As I previously mentioned, when I was younger I wanted to be a doctor but an intense dislike of Mathematics and Science in general made me rethink this career choice. I also disliked the idea of possibly being responsible for someone else’s life. While in high school I was referred to a program called SPARK because I was quiet and kept to myself and was seen as a possible “at risk” student. SPARK was a counseling program for students with problems whether they were social, familial, what-have-you, or those students who wanted to help other students as Peer Counselors. SPARK provided counseling both on an individual and group basis and the students who were drawn to the program were referred to as “Sparkies.” I did suffer from depression, which my parents as old school West Indian immigrants did not address, but I was not a danger to myself or anyone else therefore I was not seen as the ideal candidate for SPARK’s program. However, I found that for the first time during my High School experience, I felt comfortable and that comfort grew from my camaraderie with the “misfits” who hung out in the SPARK office, it was a comfort that I felt more in the SPARK office than anywhere else and this ended up being the beginning of my work as a counselor with the program. My peer counseling with SPARK lead to an AIDS/HIV counseling stint with the, now defunct, AANNY (The Aids and Adolescents Network of New York) and I realized my interest in sex was not just limited to the pleasurable aspects of it, I also wanted to promote sexual health, sexual awareness and sexual positivity. While in High School and working as a counselor I was shocked to learn how many people have sex but do not know the first thing about it. They are unaware of how to protect themselves, have shame and hang ups with regards to their own sexuality, etc. Remedying this became a personal goal of mine. I knew that I wanted to dedicate my life or at least some part of my life to helping people embrace their sexuality in order to be satisfied as well as their happy and whole selves.
I “lost” my virginity at age 21, which sounds strange to most people I reveal this fact to. These people generally feel that this is pretty late in the game but it was just right for me. When I was younger I felt that people generally have sex sooner than they should and at 30 I am of the same opinion. In a lot of cases your body may feel ready but you may not be ready for the seriousness of sex and what comes after. I think most people like to write off sex as “Just sex” and yes, it does not have to have far-reaching implications, emotional or otherwise but it often does. Regardless of if there is emotion involved or not, you are sharing an important part of yourself with another person and if one does not see that part of them self as important maybe they should stop and think about what sex means to them. I had been in a relationship (my first relationship) for close to three years when we decided to introduce sex in to the equation. At that time it was the ideal situation for me, I was in a committed relationship with someone I loved and we planned to eventually marry. The situation was young and idealistic because it was not based on any further life experience but it was what we both wanted and I have no regrets. I did, however, find the first few times we had sex to be extremely painful and became aware that I had what my doctor refers to as “small anatomy.” My boyfriend at the time was extremely affectionate and patient (one of the reasons why I waited to have sex was because these were the conditions I desired) so this was not an issue between us but my small anatomy would later come to negatively impact my sex life, more on that later.
That relationship came to an end after seven years and an engagement, my Mother was diagnosed with cancer a second time after a mastectomy and extensive chemotherapy and my fiancé was completely -. I realize now that at the time, due to our young age and inexperience with life neither of us knew how to handle my Mother’s impending death and I ended up pulling away while my ex-fiancé tried to draw me closer, though through thoughtless ways that just left me feeling smothered and simultaneously alone. While adjusting to being single after being part of a couple for seven years was a difficult transition it did allow me to learn about actual dating and discover partners other than my ex-fiancé. While my sexual relationship with my ex-fiancé was satisfying, due to both of us being inexperienced virgins there was not a lot of experimentation. Once I was a single woman, I was not only able to get to know more people through dating but get to know more about my sexual self by way of being intimate with different partners visiting sex shops, purchasing marital aids and watching pornography but mostly by having the opportunity to learn and try new things in the bedroom that I would have been shy about suggesting to my ex-fiancé. My next serious relationship began as a rebound fling with a close friend. This friend was there for me during my Mother’s sickness in a way that my fiancé had been unable to and we inevitably fell in to bed together. Sleeping with someone other than my ex for the first time was a sobering experience, I will even admit to crying afterwards because it brought home the fact that the relationship was truly over and I felt the full loss of it at the time. But on the positive end of things, without even discussing it my new partner and I seemed to know what the other wanted and things that I desired but had been afraid to voice before were assumed by this new man, which made the process of opening up to someone different a lot easier for me. In hindsight, the end of my first relationship also represented the beginning of my becoming an adult sexually. That aforementioned rebound relationship lasted for a year and a half, and was consistently exciting and adventurous with regards to sex. We used toys, had sex outside of the bedroom, which was news to me, as well as outdoors, etc. He was a very open young man who was not intimidated by anything I might want to try, and took as much joy in my sexual pleasure and release as I did. We are no longer together but I will always be grateful for the experiences I had with him. Funnily, he will never know how much he contributed to my growth merely by taking me to bed. Summarily, adventure and experimentation became a repeating theme in my sexual life once I was out of my first relationship.
I have three rules when it comes to sex: No animals, no poop and no babies, anything else I will try at least once. This attitude has led to things ranging from my participation in New York City’s burlesque scene to attending BDSM and bondage classes. With regard to burlesque, I initially interned and then became a core member of a troupe called Brown Girls Burlesque, a troupe which primarily serve to represent women of color in the burlesque scene I initially appreciated that they represented women of color because at shows there seemed to be a serious lack of performers I could look at and see myself in but I later came to find that the members, more than the label, pigeonholed performers who joined them and their goal was more militant than empowering. What I love about burlesque is that, ideally, there are performers of all shapes, sizes, genders, sexual orientations, etc. and the crowd, as well as their peers, are spurring them on and encouraging them and adoring. Burlesque has helped me not only find a new love and acceptance for my body, but appreciate it in a way that I previously did not. My body is unique in its appearance and able to move in amazing and sensuous ways. Burlesque, like many forms of dance, results in you being more aware of yourself physically and the affect your physicality, and what you chose to do with that physicality or how you present it can affect others. My interest and openness with sex has also lead to me pursuing positions with Babeland (a sex toy shop started in Seattle, WA, which now also has locations in New York City), an almost-internship with Juicy Pink box (a sex positive lesbian-oriented film company) and even to being interviewed by Marie Claire on the subject of anal sex. Some of my friends jokingly call me “Anal Girl” because of my penchant for being quite vocal about enjoying anal sex and willingness to discuss my experience with it. What can I say? It’s awesome! Basically, there is not much related to sex that I do not have an interest in or am unwilling to talk about.
I have recently had two sobering experiences, these experiences being bad sex (I can honestly say I had never had bad sex, really bad sex until this experience) and being rejected for the aforementioned bad sex. I, relatively, recently dated someone for a number of months whom I was very interested in. We had a great time together and ended up holding off on sleeping together. It was never a discussion, we just had a lot of fun when we went out and shared great conversation so the lack of sex was not a deterrent from seeing one another and so it never became an issue that is until we actually had sex. When we did finally attempt to sleep together it was disappointing each and every time. Back to my small anatomy, I am on the small side down there and this man was on the large side down there, he had a memory foam mattress (why does anyone buy those?) he used KY (worst lube ever, in my opinion), I had an attack of dry mouth any time his penis was near my face, etc.. Basically, anything that could go wrong did go wrong during the few times we were together in the bedroom. I was willing to give this person the benefit of the doubt but was not granted the same consideration and ended up being rejected due to our perceived sexual incompatibility. Sex is important in general and important to me but it is not the ultimate motivating factor in my life and there is much more to me than my sexuality so to be written off for such a shallow reason led me to think about sex and the role it has taken in my life. During my adventures as a single woman over the past five years I have learned to embrace the grey areas of life. I have found myself in relationships and dating situations that can only be described as nebulous and while that worked for a while, because I either did not know what I wanted or knew that I did not want anything from those men, at this point in my life it only leaves me feeling empty. As I said before, sex does not have to be wrought with emotion or about anything more than two people enjoying one another on a physical level, but when I was faced with the reality that some people cannot see you as a whole person and respect and value you on that level, it gave me cause for thought. I am not simply a body to be used and I am not here merely for men’s, or anyone’s, disposal. Due to this I have decided to not date and also practice celibacy for at least a year. It’s ironic because when I decided to complete my sexual autobiography as a midterm project, celibacy was the last thing on my mind. Despite the fact that I am now not having sex, I feel that I am learning even more about myself and my attitudes towards it. I have had to revisit pleasuring myself and enjoy being able to focus on me without having to consider someone else or be seen as selfish. I have made new note of how males in my life react to me and treat me. My celibacy, though newfound, has been extremely enlightening. This week marks my seventh week of celibacy and as much as I enjoy and miss sex, I am actually very excited about this development and eager to see how it impacts my experiences as well as my life. I already find myself seeing things in a different light, a clearer light. I do mourn my youthful idealism and romanticism but am looking forward to eventually embarking on a healthy emotional and physical relationship with someone who is mature and can appreciate all of me and I am willing to do whatever remaining work I have to do to get there.