Of Tigers and Feathers – a romantic’s journey through singledom

Why this project?

The seed for this started with Jess Zimmerman’s essay on hunger and how what the world sees as a man’s hearty appetite equals that same world’s definition of a woman’s avaricious voracity.

It started me thinking.

In what ways have I been curtailed and starved as a woman? Society’s thoughts on whether I’m skinny enough, pretty enough, compliant enough, submissive enough, kind enough, gentle enough. Read: feminine enough. Because it’s 2016 and we still have enough outdated gender notions to sink the Titanic.

In what ways have I been told “no, that’s enough” as an immigrant? To be grateful that I’m allowed on this hallowed ground. To be grateful that I’m part of a “model minority” easily allowed a visa and not one of those illegal aliens to be deported on sight. To be grateful for the things I have, and if I’m not sufficiently ecstatic, to “go home”.

In what ways have I been squeezed and packed into a plexiglass cube as a person of color? Almost always the demure sidekick as opposed to the heroine, the helpless foil to the main character’s sassy kick-ass personality, the shy introvert in need of a white savior. If not the red shirt, then the slinky, sly, sexy femme fatale out to get the heroine’s man, no matter his disdain or outright insult. Or simply invisible in the vast seas of media, no matter if the setting is historical anywhere to a thousand years later in space to places of sheer fantasy where vampires and werewolves roam.

In what ways have I been scoffed at for wanting more as an artist? Told to be grateful that anyone wants to read me at all. Mocked for the thought of wanting to make a living off something I enjoy. Treated with gentle condescension, patted on the head, and told I’d have to get a real job so I could live in the real world.

And then there’s the idea of being neuro-typical. Of being gender normative in the way your particular society wants. Of conforming, always conforming.

How have I been starved? How am I hungry? What will feed me versus what will nourish me?

Then, I read Kristi Coulter’s essay about the real reasons why women drink. As someone who regularly turned to cocktails to get through the day/month/year and who really bought into the “oh, your day blew? Have a drink!” band-aid kool-aid in the past, I cringed and nodded my way through.

Your boyfriend refuses to help out around the house? Pick up a glass of wine, put on some music, and vacuum the floor yourself.

Your boss is a racist sexist dickhead? Throw back a shot or three and keep trucking.

Your health insurance doesn’t cover dental or the tests for your mysterious chronic illness and you’re fielding medical bills seemingly aimed to get you bankrupt? Here’s a fifth of whiskey, now hush.

You’re stressing out because you can’t find affordable daycare but you also can’t afford to stay at home? Have a “mommy juice” and laugh your woes away.

And it all circled back to the question of hunger, of “hysterical” demands, of not being allowed to ask for what we need to survive and thrive. We’re not just drinking because it’s fun; we’re drinking to numb the pangs of starvation.

Let’s drink to forget so we can keep on keeping on in a country that doesn’t offer adequate support to new parents, that speaks of freedom and liberating the world but refuses to face up to its own racist and sexist agendas, that expects its citizens to be the best and brightest without offering the scaffolding required to build them up.

Let’s drink so we don’t fight, so we can all pretend that everything’s just fine.

Then, I strolled over to Kristi Coulter’s blog about sobriety and it really hit me, how in many ways abstaining from alcohol was similar to abstaining from other similarly mind-altering things. Things like using spirituality to hide gaping wounds. Like using relationships to try and keep back the darkness. Like relying on everything except myself for what I need. Like chasing everything shiny to block out the screaming emptiness inside.

 

Of Tigers and Feathers is an exploration into hunger, into the depths to find the source of that hidden ache, and hopefully into a state where I can not only acknowledge what I need, but find ways to be satiated and feed others.

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