This farce again. I’m city-bound. Watch the carnival of consumerism roll by my window, these come-hither neon seductions. I’m just here for socks and coat-hangers — we all know how that song goes. Extricate self from tram, self from the spill of humanity, the close proximity which cues anxiety. Extricate, land on pavement and — it’s all in my face.
Avoid the spruiker who’ll ask why my skin is SO RADIANT — charm bordering on hysteria. Who’ll pull you in through hungry doors, sit you down before a tell-tale mirror. Surgery-lit for the vivisection of your self-esteem — ruthless magnifier of all mistakes and misgivings.
Tick-tick-tick go your skin cells, miniscule tellers of time passing, always aging always sloughing away, dying off. The inevitable, inelegant collapse into collagen-famine … leaving a trail of entropy behind.
I’m clued up to this sly grabbery of commerce in motion — I’ve earnt my street-smarts. I’ve the wrinkles of a rebel, the lipsticked pout of a capitulator. Trapped in this post-feminist mall-scape of the hyperreal, patriarchies’ dissection of woman—not vigilant, not visceral, not foolproof enough. Occasional joyous bodies still slip through unfettered — oh elegant solution — inoculate us all with the duty of scrutiny. On ourselves, on each other.
Turn us against ourselves. Walk down the street what is she wearing? Watch the silent self-implosions . Women quietly coming apart—trying to walk in tatters. Big Sister is watching for that hair out of place.
She’ll reel in another victim. Come into my parlour, said the spider to the fly. Things get intimate as she scrutinizes your skin, and beyond. Down to the dermis, piercing the nerves. They’ll find the flaw — that’s what they’re mining for: commodification of the errors of our too, too, sullied flesh. The lure of the cure.
Out, out, damned spot …
Beauty no longer skin-deep. Cosmetic industry, jacked into Silicon Valley — pigments exquisitely blended with binary code. The new Image Matrix. Now, beauty teeters on the penetrating laser’s tip — another phallic intrusion. Peel ourselves bare with chemicals, submit to the burn —
Pamper yourselves, ladies!
Evisceration is the new relaxation. Because “You’re worth it” — yet tectonic cracks under the glossy sheen of our credit cards know beauty hath no price.
I careen off-stage. I don’t want to play this part. You’re a little old, anyway, darling. Still the marionette to my gender, but the strings are tangled. Mask askew, my choreography no longer assured — would someone get her out of the spotlight?
I’m a postmodern paradox: I participate / I resist. I’m still a she-pronoun / too damn cis for my own good / maybe one day I’ll evolve to they / boundaries bleeding / in the gendered minefield / in the skin I’m in / I’m a walking contradiction.
Fixated on our image, like Narcissus’ plight. But not transfixed by beauty —no —
patriarchy wants women’s heads —
bowed in shame
over the creases
in the pages
of our stories
on our faces.
Life passing by.
Blend her into the background. Give her a slow fade.
Break this contract of feminine performativity, this endless scrutiny on the stage of patriarchy. Smash the fucking spotlights. I don’t care what my line was.
Burn the script.
I want a new story.
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Melissa Coffey (they/their) is an Australian writer, editor and spoken word performer. A former theatre director, they’re fascinated by the wilds of nature and the human heart. Melissa’s poetry and fiction are published in Aurora Journal, Ekphrastic Review, Last Girls Club, Crow’s Quill Magazine, and Writing in a Woman’s Voice. An appreciator of surreal and avant-garde aesthetics, Melissa contributes regularly to Exist Otherwise. Forthcoming works include fiction in an anthology of feminist reimaginings (Improbable Press), prose poetry in Antithesis and The Ekphrastic Review’s 2024 print anthology. They’re working on several chapbooks and a novella.