Maybe You’ll Have A Smooth Ride

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This is the house where I grew up.

I hadn’t been for eight years. 8 YEARS. I don’t know the precise reasons of my absence.

I was 25 when I was here last. I was, back then, an aspiring baby queer who hadn’t even come out to herself yet. I had just cut my hair short for the last time of my life (I understood soon after that it doesn’t suit me). I was a confused Parisian student with chubby cheeks. I was at the very beginning of my empowerment. I now gauge myself to be half way through it. I am proud.

It is 1:40 am as I am writing this. I can’t sleep. All my life possibilities and burning desires are spinning in my head. I turned on the light to smoke a café crème cigarillo. I’ve cruelly missed gypsy time management. I am humming an old East 17 song, Alright, alright, everything’s gonna be alright. I am contemplating all the time and freedom ahead of me. I know I can do absolutely anything there is to be done on that side of the fucking planet. Like one stereotypically says, the rest of my life is a blank page to be written. I am going to write it like I write my blog posts. Spontaneous, volcanic, irregular.

Being back between the walls which absorbed my passed fears helps me realise how much I’ve accomplished. It’s been moving me in a good way to be here. I went through all the things I’ve left in storage over the years. Each box represents an era. I ship more unwanted things here with every house moving. That’s a lot of archive to look at. I had forgotten about some of the clothes I used to wear. I tried some on again. The books I miss, the letters I received, some pictures of my younger face.

Since 2008, I’ve been an inhabitant of Paris, Berlin, Paris again, London, New York. All the trips. All the jobs. I am now an officially unemployed inhabitant of nowhere and this fills me with ecstasy. All my belongings are in storage. I am flying out to Buenos Aires in ten days to travel around Latin America by myself. People are afraid for me. I am not afraid for myself.

Above all, there’s been a ton of new people irrupting into my life since I was here last. I fell in and out of love. Got hurt and disappointed, but had brief moments of bliss on the way which made it all worth it after all.

I am now falling in love again and I am hoping for the first time in years, but my system seems to cope better with the big void of loneliness than with the effervescence of hope. I shared my ongoing agitation with my good friend μ4. He simply said: “Maybe this time you’ll have a smooth ride.”

At first, I wasn’t even sure what he meant. I had to rephrase to confirm I got it right. I was like: “Do you mean that things may be easy?” I realised that I’ve never quite seen things under that light. It’s just not part of my mindset. I’ve been repeating this quote like a mantra. It is not so much that I am afraid of life or that I am a natural pessimistic. Not at all. I am just not good with peace. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt serene in any way. I am so talented for chaos and violent feelings. It is a nature to tame.

Maybe things actually do sometimes get alright and stay alright in the end?

The book in the above picture is the cult lesbian novel Thérèse et Isabelle by Violette Leduc. I strongly recommend it. 

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Full Moon

Magdalena-Lutek-Nishe9Photo: Nishe9 by Magdalena Lutek

 

I am walking away from my own beaten path with that post, diving into the topic that is my personal beast.

Family.

I don’t know how to write about family, because I don’t know how to talk about family, because I never talk about family. I’ve become an expert at avoiding the topic.

Why?

I don’t have an answer myself.

Is there anything I am ashamed of? Is it painful? Sensitive? Am I running away from something? Are there any words out there in the lexicon of the world to even articulate my situation?

It has nothing to do with love. I do love my family. That’s what makes it tough. We all love our family to the point that it becomes a vampire that sucks us into guilt. We are all loyal to our respective family system, whatever form our loyalty may take.

That’s seven years that I haven’t been to my parents’ home. I was still a closeted student at Paris 3 University with short hair and big cheeks when I went there last. I have seen my parents and siblings in the meantime, but always in “neutral ground”, far from the house where I grew up.

My great return was planned last weekend. I had booked plane tickets for a family gathering and I had confirmed my presence. Everything was set.

I played for time until the very last minute. I sent an email the day before. “I am sorry. I am not coming.

It took me weeks to finally make that decision. Although I am the rebel of the family, although I have a big mouth and I am not the last to tell people to ‘fuck off’, although I’ve always been fiercely independent and moved abroad with my little suitcase when I was 18 and 2 weeks, you know what, that no show decision triggered the biggest amount of guilt I’ve ever felt. After being physically apart from my family system for most of my adult life, I think it was finally the first time that I was consciously stepping out of it. I visualised the family party with my empty shoes around the table. I remembered being told that healthy guilt can be healing.

I didn’t have the strength to hold myself back and compose a smooth character. I didn’t have the strength to elude the routine matters or tactfully filter my words.

I would like to go back to the people who’ve brought me into the world and be able to be my full self, the one that my friends and adopted family find colorful, funny and groundbreaking. I don’t want to be the pale version of myself any longer, not even for a moment. I am renouncing to pretend.

I want to casually tell my mum: “So, in a nutshell, last year I had this exploration phase of what is called ‘the BDSM scene’. That stands for ‘Bondage-Sado-Masochism’, and I found out that I am BD but not SM. I am not against it, I just don’t like it. It was truly fascinating. I met really nice people in sex parties, really, you’d be surprised how interesting and caring people can be. I had a fling with one of my gay ‘husbands’ around new year. It was awesome. He wears my clothes. I started questioning my desire after that. Maybe I also like a certain type of boys and I’ve been missing out? I had a CRAZY physical passion with my female neighbour a month later, but it stopped abruptly when I found out that she was an addict. Then, I shut down for a while. I am trying to become more emotional, and dare I say it, more ‘romantic’, although I have a hard time with the naiveness of the term. But I don’t think emotion is naive after all, because it takes great courage to be that present to yourself and surrender to another person. Right now, there are girls and boys that I like. I am rewiring myself, it is a tremendous job. I recently realised that my spectrum is so wide, you know. I’ve been infatuated with straight girls and boys and gay girls and boys. I even briefly fell in love with a girl who is now a boy. It is quite an achievement, don’t you think? You should be proud of me and of my human research. I recently made a new friend. She was born a man and is transitioning to become a woman. We catch up to talk about men because it is all new for her as well. We are at the similar stage of our woman’s life. She makes me think of my own femininity from a different perspective. I give her fashion tips. It’s a great connection. The variety within the human kind fills me with joy. That’s what my life is about.”

But my mum is a fundamentlist Catholic who has the word Jesus tattooed on her forearm. She was in the demonstrations against gay marriage in 2013, knowing about me. She campaigns to ensure that gay people won’t have the right to reproduce. She’s not a bad person, though. She feels guilty as f*** that she ‘failed my education’ for I turned out the way I am (see above). And I am equally feeling guilty for not being married to a guy as stable as a washing machine and not having popped out his ugly kids.

What can we both do about the way we are? I doubt we’ll ever meet. I think she would like to love me more but she can’t, given that she’s the one person on earth who certainly knows me the least.

My parents know about 10% of me, the acceptable part that I am comfortable to expose to judgment. It is not only that I can’t talk about my relationships and my human explorations as frankly as I’d like. No one really discusses that with their parents. But I can’t talk about my friends, my beloved queers and creatures, I can’t talk about what I write, what I read, what I love. I have to silence every topic that turns me on and gives me a reason for hope in the mess.

They only see me under a mainstream light that narrows me down, just like our vision of the moon is partial most of the time. Adjacent to the crescent moon, there is this fullness and roundness hidden in the dark. We furtively catch its full beauty once in a while.

I would like my family to see my full moon.

How do I proceed to change that?

Allegory Of The Closet

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I was away to the Homeland for some time, busy sponging waves of human drama but not forgetting about my own.

I was told that Mother Earth is currently shifting energies, transitioning from yin to yang (or the other way around) which explains the series of catastrophes, diseases and fights since the beginning of the year.

Don’t we all magnetically feel an impending change coming? There may be hope for better tomorrows.

I am initiating my deep changes as well. OK, I say that all the time. But right now, I swear it is different.

I am feeling at a similar stage of my life as back in the summer of 2009. When my nerves broke. I often think about that episode. It’s the period of time when I finally got the courage to bury and mourn for my heterosexuality. I had to endure a nervous breakdown to officially come out of the closet.

I fucked a boy for the last time in the Spring of that year, the week that I started my internship as a cultural journalist. I was 25. He was a tango teacher from Columbia wearing Hawaiian shirts. It ended in my blood. After that, I buried myself in work around the clock and became the shadow of myself. At least, I wasn’t thinking. My subconscious – or some mysterious spiritual forces – started manifesting, though.

A very visceral and deep structural change operated in my guts despite myself. I was harassed by homoerotic dreams after seeing Sunshine Cleaning, an American indie movie. There was this party scene where the so desirable Emily Blunt wears a candy necklace. A girl eats from her neck. Oh man. I remember the shiver in my body in the obscurity of the cinema. I wanted to be the girls on screen. All the gay people in the world have their cult homoerotic scenes, the ones that triggered their own desire. (Ask around, it’s a funny game). I have 3: the sweet derrière of Mylène Farmer in the clip of Pourvu qu’elles soient douces (I was 7)Cécile de France in L’Auberge espagnole (I was 19) and the inénarrable Emily Blunt.

I am grateful that my desire finally grew stronger than my will.

With all the messy changes in my core and my broken nerves in the background, I got close to a girl I was working with. She was more or less at the same stage of her lesbian life as me. We were talking more and more about our doubts and desires during our evening shifts at the sublime and posh concert hall Salle Pleyel. The night before I flew to Toronto for my American summer tour, I made her sleep over at mine after my leaving party where we all ended up in our underwear. Everyone left and I don’t know how I made her stay. Then, I made the first move. I clearly remember the moment when she opened my lips to kiss me. Something flowed in my brain. Her tongue swept away all the remnants of the heterosexual preconceptions that I had of myself. She uprooted my certitudes and moved them to Lesboland.

I left to the Americas in the morning with a 9 week adventure ahead of me. I needed to digest my new identity far away from my mother tongue.

That’s funny, I saw that girl again last week. We remained good friends. She’s getting married in July to her girlfriend and is hoping to be pregnant by the end of the year. She picked the same wedding dress as her fiancée without knowing. As for me, I fuck coke addicts in cars and explore the world on my own. Everything’s at the right place. Our intimate worlds only collided that one night, and it was great that way.

Six years have gone by and I am again on the verge of a nervous breakdown of a different kind. How many times do I have to collapse to reach my true colours? I’m feeling the urge of a new coming out, as strong as the sexual one. I want my deep identity to explode to the face of the world. I believe I am a closeted creative soul and I’m ashamed to say that I want my life to be about that.

There’s something taboo in the action of creating something, because the result only exists in the eye of whoever will watch and like you, and I hate begging for attention. I like being liked, but I don’t want to do anything at all to make people like me. It doesn’t interest me to chase love and recognition. If you like me, good for you, but if you don’t, I won’t try one bit to convince you.

This is how I am a closeted creative girl.

Every single one of my skin pores is sweating for change though, and I am close to implosion, as if my creativity needed to get laid by the right person. I can’t think of a better image. Sex & creation are pretty much the same struggle.

Anyway, everything changes all the time and my life constantly bounces like a kangaroo, but there is one element of steadiness. A recurrent question burns my thoughts till obsession.

Who’s going to love me body & soul? And above all, who’s going to love my brain?

Photos by me (check out that framing!)

1. Grave of Mme Troboa Murcella Asskari (1970-1994) at Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris 2. ‘Trying to be Frida’ by artist Emilio Lopez-Menchero 3. Altered Image I by Deborah Kass (copy of a picture of Andy Warhol dressed as a girl) 4. Evelyn, the cat I live with 5. Simona, a lady I met at the Bull Dog in Brighton. We had the same coat and the same earrings. 6. Anonymous street art in East London 7. Billie Holiday in 1948 photographed by William P. Gottlieb 8. Summer, a cat who lived at my house for a month but left today because she was mean to Evelyn 9. Transgender Miss in Latin America 10. Collection of Jesus statues at my neighbours’ who got them from a movie set they worked on

Paulette

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This is the portrait of my grandmother Paulette – “Mamilette”- painted by her father in the early 30s. It really captures her expression accurately. She never changed much. That’s one of the only objects I really care for. I carry it religiously with me at every house moving.

Paulette got admitted in hospital on Tuesday. She died yesterday, Saturday 7 March, around 4pm. My grandfather found 3 pictures of her garden in her handbag. It was her favorite place on earth.

I always believed she was immortal or would at least be a centenarian.

I only realise now that she’s gone how much we were of the same breed, the breed of women that people secretly want to grab by the hair and drag onto a stake because “nous faisons désordre” (“we create disorder”). If we had lived in another era, we would for sure have been burnt together. I am feeling like a lonely witch now. There are no witches in the generation above me, and I am the only witch of the family in my own generation.

So much she passed on to me. First, she gave me my huge wild hair, and those who know me in real life know that my hair is not a detail. Hers was as dark as mine is blonde, but it is the nature of the hair that tells the nature of the woman. She taught me how to look after it, brushing it from underneath so it can breathe. She also gave me my bright blue eyes. I am the only one of my siblings who got them. We had the exact same astrological signs: Cancer and Pig in the Chinese zodiac. We liked grunting at each other as a sign of recognition.

Paulette really was a a rare and extraordinary woman. She was unusual, original and atypical, therefore she had to deal with criticism and jealousy all her life. Most people enjoyed talking bad about her, because she wasn’t square-minded one bit and there was so much to say.  But the people who knew her very closely worshipped her for her personality and knowledge.

Paulette was a witch, but a benevolent one. She was coming from a family of mediums. Her dad was a physician and a medium, which is the most improbable combination ever. She used to do table-tipping with her sister when they were young. When my grandfather talks about that, he becomes very pale and says he regrets ever joining a nutcase family. Paulette was always receiving signs from the Great Beyond, she was communicating with the dead. I grew up with her stories of people asking her for help to make it to the other world. I remember a story of a spirit moving the hands of the clock while she was casually playing cards in her living-room. It was freaking me out. I really didn’t want the dead to manifest to me. We had this talk one day. She asked me “What is it that scares you about the dead?” I said that I had no control on them and on what they could do to me. She simply replied: “The only thing you can control in life is your breath. You can’t even control your thoughts.” Now that she’s gone, she may give my contact to the lost souls. With age, I think I am more ready for it.

Paulette was very good at doing things the way she wanted and telling everyone to fuck off. She was a dragon. One day, she threw slices of lamb at me and my cousin, right in our face, because we were refusing to eat meat. She was badly perceived by the men of her generation, and by the others as well. She was generally a nightmare to most men and a heroin to most women. For instance, she would refuse to cook or to serve people even if she had guests or family visiting. She was making herself a plate and say: “I am eating, you guys do what you want.” There was nothing docile or obedient about her. She taught me that. High five.

When she got really ill in her 50s or 60s – I never really knew what she had – she refused all kind of treatment from traditional medicine and healed herself with her knowledge of plants and natural remedies. She was mostly self-taught. She knew acupuncture, Chinese medicine, homeopathy. She once showed me a specific spot to massage on my finger in case of painful period, instead of stuffing myself with pain killers. She was saying that this is how she lived so long and healthy, and that if she had listened to the doctors, she would have died decades ago. She always was physically glowing and magnificent. Her only beauty products were Marseille soap and olive oil.

She wanted to transmit all her tips & tricks and knowledge of plants. I said I would record her teaching and make notes for all the grandchildren, but I didn’t. I didn’t take the time to do it because I always had another trip planned. She passed on a lot of it to my big brother who also is a natural healer, so it is not entirely lost. I am going to search her notes and her belongings to see what I can put together. I should have stopped everything and be her secretary for a week while she was still here. I was planning to go and visit her next month. Tickets were booked. She didn’t have the patience to wait. I think she decided that she was done.

She was extremely funny and she was a drama queen. She taught me not to take myself seriously. She was an irreverent clown. It was sometimes embarrassing to take her to public places, although I am the one of her descendants who’s the closest to her irreverence.

Despite our mutual love and similarities, we had huge disagreements on a number of subjects including feminism, abortion and homosexuality. She was a strange combination of Christian conservatism and witchcraft avant-garde. She was a feminist in her own way but could also say awful things about women having sex, wearing trousers or working whilst having kids. She always tried to suppress my body and my femininity. She was also openly homophobic, because she was in love with Jean Marais when she was young, and the day she found out that he wasn’t really kissing the girls on screen, she got all offended. Over the last years, I was taking my distance because it was too painful to hear her obsessive gay-bashing rants. She never knew about me. I never said a thing because I otherwise adored her. I hope she’s seeing me as I am now. I hope she’ll send me a sign, something funny, to tell me that she knows and that she likes it. I doubt she will apologise – not her style.

I am the second generation of women now. Both my grandmas are gone. They were born the same day of the same year – June 30th, 1923. All day yesterday before I got the news of Paulette’s death, I was invaded by an irrational urge for motherhood and transmission. I even picked a name for my son-to-be.

My turn to bring witches into this world.

Mamilette Noir&Blanc

Paulette gave me that picture taken at the beginning of the 50s. I assume the baby is my mother. 

“Je suis Charlie”: A reflection on my Frenchness

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I never imagined commenting a hot topical issue on my blog, but the recent events in France are so huge that my mind can’t really focus on anything else right now.

OK. To give you some insight before tackling the Charlie subject, I should explain that I’ve had an ongoing conflictual relationship with France, my homeland. Starting with the basics: where in France do I actually come from? I never know how to summarise it when people ask me (at least once a day). On my mum’s side, they are from Touraine and Franche-Comté, although my mother’s mother was born in Germany, which she was ashamed of during the war. On my dad’s side, they have all been Savoyards for generations. All my relatives are still there but I don’t know the region at all. I was born in the suburb of Paris but I was transplanted to Lozère when I turned 6. Lozère is the least populated French department. I describe it to Americans like the “Midwest of France”. Everyone there is more or less cousins. I was tagged “Parisian” after my first day at school because of my accent. I did all my school there and hated most of it. I haven’t been in 7 years.

I moved to Québec when I was 18 and 2 weeks, and didn’t see the home land for 2 years. This is where I became an adult. Québec shaped my mentality, my open mind, and my critical mind too. The French stubbornness and self-absorption hit me then.

I spent only 3 years of my grown up life in France, so my feeling of belonging got eroded with time. When I return, I don’t really identify. I don’t fit. I am feeling criticised all the time. French always have something to say, and more than often it is unpleasant. France is the home of a bunch of people I love to pieces, and my favorite thing on earth is reading the newspapers at a Parisian café terrace. But beyond that, I couldn’t picture blossoming in my life there, especially after the anti-gay marriage campaign of 2013 which took hundred of thousands of people on the street (including my own mother :)). Back then, I remember this huge sign in one of the demonstrations stating “France needs children, not homosexuals”, and I felt that my place of birth was hating me. It was violent. Something clearly clicked in my head, I understood I would never live there again because if I’m ever going to have kids, I wouldn’t want them to be second-class citizens.

So in the recent years, I’ve grown to feel “francophone” more than French, because I have mixed feelings for my mother country but I still adore my mother tongue.

Wednesday, the 7th of January – the day of the shooting at Charlie Hebdo – I was working from home. One of my French co-workers reached me on Skype: “Have you seen what is going on in Paris? – No, what?” She sent me a link to LeMonde.fr. I switched on France Inter right away and wasn’t able to get much work done for the rest of the day.

I don’t know what time it was when the journalist said on the French radio : “Charb et Cabu seraient morts.” (“Charb and Cabu are reportedly dead.”) Wave of shock. I was surprised at my own shock, because I wasn’t a regular reader of Charlie, but I knew these guys, of course I knew these guys. I knew their post-May 1968 hippyish school teacher looks, their drawing style, their left-wing insolent speech. I wasn’t a regular reader of Charlie but I loved knowing that they were there and existed. They were a huge symbol of the power to tell the authorities and institutions to fuck off, and it was refreshing to know there was this little agitated force somewhere, even though we could find it sometimes questionable or tasteless. It is just the fact that something like that existed that was so good and comforting and unique to our Frenchness.

My flatmate, who is also French and working from home, waited for me and we went together to the gathering at Trafalgar Square that evening. We didn’t even question it. Of course we wanted to be all together, with all the French of London whom I usually avoid like plague. On the way out, we ran into our British flatmate who didn’t quite get our urge to go. We tried to explain him that some kind of 9/11 of press freedom had just happened – before the first drawings showing the twin towers shaped as pencils had even been published. He didn’t understand, but we had to run.

At Trafalgar Square, at the foot of the National Gallery, it was solemn and silent. No one was speaking. In the Evening Standard that night, they were referring to Charb as “Mr Charbonnier”. Oh my God I thought, “Mister Charbonnier”! They didn’t seize the character. He probably would have hated that much reverence.

On the social networks, the “Je suis Charlie” response went viral, like an international spontaneous solidarity momentum. It had been a while that French people hadn’t really stuck together. Some critics soon arose from the unanimity of it. I told an American who was saying that he couldn’t personally relate to Charlie Hebdo: It’s absolutely normal that you wouldn’t relate to Charlie yourself, because you are not French. What people are trying to say with “Je suis Charlie” is that the core of the nation was touched: our right to be outspoken, disrespectful and irreverent. The basics of Frenchness.”

I believe it is hard to understand for foreigners how much the soul of France was touched, and how representative of a certain French spirit Charlie Hebdo was. The more I was trying to explain that to the people from diverse countries I hang out with, the more it reminded me what I love of my own culture. It reminded me how French I am after all, whether I like it or not. France shaped my critical mind and outspokenness way before any other culture did. I wouldn’t have been shaken to the core by the Charlie events if I wasn’t relating to my culture.

I remembered the “attitude adjustment” I had at work before Christmas, when my manager criticised my “negative attitude” and my way of complaining and communicating about things. I asked him for specific examples. He said it was my overall behaviour, my way of being expressive about things. And probably my way of being irreverent too,  because I always make jokes about the fact that he sweats tons even in the winter. I closed this sterile conversation by saying: “Well, I am French. That’s self-explanatory.” 

So yeah. I am super aching for France right now. French people – including myself – can be a bunch of loud, narrow-minded, ignorant and overcritical assholes, always complaining and never happy with anything. We are irreverent and indisciplined. It can be unbearable, but it can be awesome too. My grandfather, who knows his stuff about history – he worked with the FFI during WW2, he was in charge of collecting the identity of the dead German soldiers searching their body – says that the French won the war because of their indiscipline, and that in Occupation time, it was their big strength.

France has historically generated numerous ideals. We have a vision and high standards on what life should be. Of course, we tripped in the carpet a couple of times in the last centuries and applied our theoretical humanism more or less successfully. But France still has an ideal of some kind, I believe. Millions of people are marching for peace and solidarity this week end, and although a handful of people desperate to think differently say that there is manipulation behind it and that Charlie was racist, homophobic and questionable, people are nevertheless fierce to defend the press freedom and the multiculturalist society.

After the multiple waves of shock of the last 3 days, I paradoxically start getting reconciled with my own Frenchness.

Duskdreaming

chateau-ilbarritz-plage

I got back from the homeland (France) last night.

There is a beach near Biarritz called Ilbarritz, with a weird mansion up a hill, dominating the cove. It was built by an extravagant Baron in the 19th century to host one of the biggest organs ever made. The house got several lives through the decades (WW1 hospital, WW2 Nazi HQ). It is now abandoned and violently fascinates me for that reason. I am obsessed with empty buildings. I find all the beauty of the world in them: they are like a playground of possibilities impregnated with the ghosts of the past.

The other night, my aunt and uncle were holding hands on that beach in front of the sunset. I was sitting on a bench with them, happily witnessing their demonstrating each other affection. I love people’s love. But I was looking up in the other direction, towards the castle. I fantasised my own version of a romantic evening. I was ‘duskdreaming’ that I was running up the hill with a sexy/creative/bad ass girl and we were breaking into the building to sneak around, contemplate old stuff and then shoot an experimental video or take pictures or keep any kind of arty trace. In the end we would have ideally f***ed each other with sea view, running the risk of being caught.

That’s the kind of life I want.

Any candidates, just inbox me with your adventurer résumé.

For a change, picture isn’t mine. It was taken from Ilbarritz website