Space and the Selfie — an essay for “Pretty Bitch” zine.
HELLO this is the first thing i am posting here, there will be more to come soon as i werk on things. This is what i gone and did for my great pal Lauren O’Neill’s selfie zine “Pretty Bitch” which you can buy here: http://hiyalauren.bigcartel.com/category/zines. I wrote this a few months back concerning a time in my life many months back now and maybe i wouldn’t have opted for Martin Heidegger as a quote source if i had my time again, u live and learn
“The sculptured body embodies something. Does it embody space? Is sculpture an occupying of space, a domination of space?” — Martin Heidegger
American literature, cinema, crap cereal commercials, all boast the importance of the college roommate. They become confidant of relationship struggles and insecurities; the hider of ALL THE DAMN POT before room inspection; the accidental hoarder of similar looking knickers after a year of laundry dates. American colleges insist upon roommate culture so intensively it becomes inextricable from the *authentic college experience* along with questionably dosed edibles and Fireball whiskies (and Fireball whiskies with a couple of free roofies, for the ladies). The insistence of this shared space, sometimes with initial strangers, often leads to the bathroom walls becoming the ears of your sadness. For a lot of my year spent in rural Connecticut, I felt (despite the namesake) so entirely disconnected from the space I was in, that the bathroom was one of the only familiar spaces I understood being sad in. Toilets had seen me cry on them when my nan’s dog Barney died when I was eight; when taking a pregnancy test at fifteen in Leys Block (one hand holding the test, one hand cupping my mouth so the caretaker wouldn’t hear); and now when I was crying about my “environmental dislocation” — a place I expected to be my home in a way England had not really been to me, and disappointing with weird racist frats and four feet of snow barricading me inside the bathroom for a bit. I think about Charlotte Keatley’s play My Mother Said I Never Should a lot when I cry, particularly Margaret’s line, “One must go to the bathroom and lock the door if one wants — needs — to cry.” I think about how much British stiff-upper-lippedness has followed me into a toilet stall in Connecticut.
In February, six months into my stay, and marking the dead-end of a far too forced long distance relationship, I wake up late for my Latina/o Theatre class. I look in the bathroom mirror and my eyes are plumped and pillowed and set so far apart I look like a hammerhead shark. The night before I had come home to tell my roommate that if I seemed sad it was okay I had just had a break up but it really was very okay. She said to me that she knew her English was bad but if I needed to talk she would try very hard. I hugged her, and moved into the bathroom to cry. This morning, my skin was blotched into sad rashes and I considered stewing in bed, a hot weeping mess, but I knew we were reading References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot in class today and **spoiler** it’s dope. I put on purple lipstick and dungarees because I look nice in them and it may be minus fifteen outside but winter clothes for me have always just been summer clothes with a coat on top. I tie a cheerleader’s bow into my hair which I found on the floor of the Union, and put a hat on which I bought because my now-not-boyfriend had told me he would always be able to find me if I was wearing it.
Months after, I did find home there in the middle of the fields, and I realised that my early months in the US had not been documented by many selfies. There was the occasional one in MoMA, or a long distance nude, but nothing that ever really looked like me. I didn’t understand myself in that space. I couldn’t see how I fit into it. That morning — bloated face, roommate’s underpants hanging over the shower curtain — I took a dead ass, hands-praying emoji, NICE selfie. I then got on the bus, read that play in class, got a taco salad, wrote a poem, cried a bit, and then went to boxing class. It took a long time of things being quite crap, to a climax of a BIG shit moment, to make me be able to see myself in my space, to make me see how new and learned I could be and had become for myself in the time I had been away. I look at the selfie I took and remember how sad I was, how I felt like glass in my glasshouse bathroom, how I was fogging up the mirrors inside with my sobs, but I also look at it and know that I was beginning to see and understand myself in that space. It is so important that I had, and have now, a visual to document this unexpected, if small, spurt in strength and character. Underpants in the background and all.