March 20, 2002 07:41 AM

A response to this month's Ampersand.

and the radio man says
women were a curse
so men built paramount studios
and men built columbia studios
and men built
los angeles

Women are a curse and accursed.

It's true.

The thing with the Soul Coughing lyric (with a lot of their lyrics) is: it's true. It encapsulates something about the way we think.

We're cursed. Or at least. Someone decided to call us that, which is what a curse amounts to. To being spoken against (to being imprecated, a word that dances a circular dance with curse in the Webster's), to be prayed against. To curse is also to pray.

When I bleed, I want to stay home, and I want everything to be quiet and organized. I want to be alone, and I want meat.

When I bleed, I want a lot of things to be not quite the way they usually are. I don't know if these things are real, specific desires or simply a need for things to be different. I crave different, but I tend to crave the same different each time.

The anthropology of women takes different perspectives. It looks at archaeology that says, this hut is in a strangely secluded place, relative to these other huts, and we're pretty sure this here is evidence of menstrual blood, and it wonders if this was a choice, a religious mandate, a safety concern. As if choices, religious mandates and safety concerns aren't really all the same thing. Antropology suggests that women might have started the habit of separating themselves to bleed in private. That it might be fear of scent, a curse of traceability, of being found by wild dogs or dingos like a Meryl Streep movie. Or it might be spiritual, a curse of the possibility of dissolving into the air or the tide, of being literally one with things. [Antropology doesn't really have answers, but it has an endless well of perfect possibilities.]

And there are religious and social prohibitions about bleeding. About what you can and can't do. Where you shouldn't be. How you will and won't feel.

Because bleeding is a curse of un-being. And it could undo all around it. These things seem strange and disempowering.

But what if the curses are just a way to explain a way to explain? That is: if bleeding got invested with some meaning that got invested with some danger that had to be explained. What if it started with someone wanting to be different, alone and quiet?

Not getting what you want can make you slightly crazy. Make you sick, even. Not just the obvious physical (your body needs, wants water, for instance) but the mental.

What if all the things we think are a curse called bleeding are tied up into this: we want something, we want different, and we can't (or at least don't) have it? So we built all these things. Called them funny names and made a thousand different brands of things to sell that make you feel less or leak less and ignore better that what you'd really like is just to be different. Just for a few days.

Just for a few days. I'd like that.

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