Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Why Hillary’s Nomination Matters to Me (In the Category of Say What You Mean)

Yesterday, something happened that I have hoped for most of my life: a woman became a major party’s presumptive nominee for President of the United States. It shouldn’t be a big deal. All the cool countries have let a woman run them; the United States of America is long overdue for this. It shouldn’t be a big deal, but it is to me. As a bonus, the party happens to be the one I support more often than not. When I realized Hillary Clinton had clinched the Democratic nomination, I actually cried.

I understand it’s only a presumptive nomination now. I understand we haven’t won the election (yet). This does nothing to diminish how I feel. It’s closer than a woman has ever come before. Ever. I can still recall the day my mother informed me that a woman had never been President of the United States. I was eight, and it pissed me off. When I tried to make her explain to me why, she struggled. What woman wouldn’t? Mom didn’t tell me it was because women couldn’t, and she certainly would never have suggested a woman shouldn’t run for president. After searching for the words, she finally said something along the lines of, “I guess the right woman just hasn’t come along.”

Is Hillary the right woman?

I know many who would holler at me vehemently, NO! They have reasons and a right to their opinion. Many of them have told me they don’t like her because she didn’t divorce Bill after the blue dress mess. I don’t feel qualified to judge Hillary on that. Couples make their own choices for their own reasons. Live and let live.

A few don’t like her because she voted for the Iraq war while serving as a senator for the state of New York. The majority of Congress at the time did (a disaster, yes, I know). Most of those politicians regret it now. Hindsight is 20/20. Hillary’s ties to Wall Street are also cited to me as a detriment, but I ask you, what kind of a senator from the state of New York would she be if she didn’t also communicate with Wall Street? It holds much of the wealth of this nation in its hands. Why wouldn’t she know how to speak to them? Why wouldn’t you want her to?

A few hate Hillary for being part of The Establishment in Washington D.C. I counter that, as a woman politician, she needs to be. She needs to know well how to apply the oil that greases the machine of our political system. She needs to bring to bear every lesson she ever learned as a state First Lady, the country’s First Lady, a senator, and a Secretary of State because the privileged men of The Hill will try to change the rules to stymy her.

As singer, Joe Jackson, so succinctly put it, it’s different for girls. This upcoming general election will make that plain for all to see. Wait for it.

Millennia of men objectifying women will make almost no one cringe when the main stream media criticizes Hillary's hairstyle or her pantsuit color. We’re used to it – being judged on our looks and our style choices rather than our actions. (Hell we women do it to each other! We shouldn’t. It’s awful. It holds us back, but we do it.) To tell the truth, I rather enjoyed seeing the news pundits tease President Obama for his “mom jeans.” Why not call out a man for his fashion choice? Turnabout is fair play.

Millennia of women being regarded as property will make almost no one protest if a man calls her sweetie, honey, darling, or (more likely) bitch. We’ll be told the former are terms of endearment or affection, or a “pet name” (the horror of that image alone…). Men will feel justified in the latter, especially if she stands up to them. You only need to be a girl on the playground in third grade once to know this is true. Should Hillary herself resort to name-calling, she will be vilified for it as not showing the proper respect due a presidential nominee.

She won’t resort to name-calling. Hillary has no need to. Love her or hate her, she is vastly more qualified to hold the highest office in the land than the old white man that the party of Old White Men has decided should run to rule the roost. She is smarter, more articulate, and infinitely more experienced on the world stage than her opponent. Her resume reads like a woman who has focused her entire life for one purpose: to be the first woman elected President of the United States.

I never aspired to be President of the United States. I knew by age four that the writer’s life was for me. But I weep tears of joy for all the little girls who will never have to make their mothers explain why a woman has never held the highest office in the land. It’s time to finish shattering that glass ceiling.


Saturday, June 4, 2016

Re-releasing the "In Sixteen Bars" Stories (In the Category of Want What You Have)

I had the pleasure a few years back of writing a number of short stories for a friend’s e-zine, In Sixteen Bars. My friend – I’ll call him Dan – accepted stories inspired by songs, a worthy muse. I had finally gotten off my ass and started writing fiction for pleasure again, and the challenge of using music to inspire me had appeal. Dan offered to suggest my first prompt, and I accepted, curious to see which song he would pick for me. At that point, we had not known each other long. I first met Dan on Twitter, but I and my husband became friends with him IRL (that is a texting abbreviation for "in real life") when he moved to the area for work, and a mutual Tweep introduced us all at a Tweetup. Dan and I share an age gap as well – he is more than two decades younger than I. Our musical tastes had the potential to differ profoundly. But I well knew his music acumen even then; music is Dan’s passion. So the first story I penned for In Sixteen Bars was inspired Dan’s writing prompt.

His response after reading my submission was, “Holy hell, Kim.”

Dan had chosen the original release of Valerie, by the Zutons. I was familiar with Amy Winehouse’s cover; it’s a beautiful song.

Well sometimes I go out by myself
and I look across the water

And I think of all the things, what you're doing
and in my head I make a picture…
      “Valerie” by The Zutons

You can read the lyrics in full here. The song’s peaceful beginning darkens as the narrative progresses, and as I delved deeper into the imagery, the muse began to whisper lovely, gruesome words. In my head I made a picture, then I wrote it down. Dan’s words in the email, “Holy hell, Kim,” delighted me. Whatever he had expected, I had surprised him. In truth, the story surprised me, but that is the pleasure of creative writing.

In Sixteen Bars accepted seven more stories over the life of the e-zine, a very enjoyable time for me. Dan has since taken on larger, more exciting, new projects and closed his site down to protect (I presume) its contributors from copyright infringement in the absence of actual oversight. The publishing rights to the stories revert back to me, so I am going to use this space to revisit the stories, perhaps tweak a line or two, and share them again. I’ve been chastised by others for giving too much of my creative writing away on the internet, but, in truth, I have relinquished the drive to find financial success as a writer. I just need to write to stay sane. If someone out there wants to make a screenplay out of one of the stories, make me an offer. Really.

In the meantime, the story that follows is my cover of Valerie. Let me know what you think.


Short Fiction by Kim Norris

The picture in my memory never fades. I can still see her shimmy-shake, her back to me, looking over her shoulder, sly smile playing across her lips redder than her hair. Sunlight glinting off the lake’s surface backlights her form. Green water frames the strawberry tendrils that flutter in the breeze around her face. She pulls the sheer blouse over her head and then down, baring her shoulders, laughing and moving to the music. Valerie turns to face me, breasts swaying with the motion of her moves; hard, pink nipples arching upward.

"This portrait is supposed to be a still life," I tell her.

Throwing her head back, she laughs, "then why play music?"

I say, "You look beautiful." Valerie just smiles.

She quits shaking her tits and slides the blouse all the way down her arms. It drops in slow motion, the breeze catching the tissue-thin fabric and holding it aloft. Next she undoes the top button of her Daisy Dukes, then the zipper; she slides her hands down her thighs from the inside, and the shorts drop with more respect for gravity than the shirt had shown. Valerie's eyes never leave my face.

Slowly, she lowers to her knees onto the checkerboard tablecloth spread at the water's edge. I have a green bottle of red wine, white grapes, and a yellow rind of cheese preset, just so. Deep purple cushions and one white rose complete the composition. She weaves her shoulders and thighs around the setting, poised on one arm, calves crossed at the ankle. Strawberry tendrils flutter in the breeze around her thighs. Her lips curl up, just so, enigmatic, sexy. If I could ever love a woman, I would love Valerie.

Starting with her lips, I begin to paint.

After, we drink the wine and eat the grapes and cheese; the wine loosens her tight muscles, and the cheese and grapes need to be fresh for each sitting. We do this as the canvas dries. We have an understanding that she should not look at the unfinished work; her idea, and I respect it.

For seven sunlit days she stretches before me. I empty my savings to pay her tithe. The striptease she performs makes me hot, no matter which paper-thin blouse she shreds in the breeze. When I reveal the finished painting to her, she offers to fuck me for free, but I have not yet learned to love a woman.

The next time I see her face, it’s a mug shot. Valerie does not smile; her hair is longer, lank. She has been drinking, but I only know this because her “lazy” right eye leans inward, which only happens after a few glasses of wine. Her left eye looks defiantly into the camera. I learn her surname is Nesbit, and it feels like a non sequitur. The knowledge of her lover’s existence does not crush me as I fantasized it would. Her list of current misdemeanors amuses me.

On the shore of the lake she had committed more devastating crimes for my art. Still-life became stop-motion. The light never failed. “Come on over,” Valerie said at the beginning of each session. I kept my space and captured her, my paintbrush lips on her watercolor skin, a canvas bed, framed and taught. The distance between our bodies gave us time to dry between each act of incompatible passion.

I last saw Valerie in a picture  hanging on the wall at the opening of my first show. Naked, in living color – green, gold, strawberry, and the memory of our vice. Watercolor, sunlight-dappled lake, pink skin stretched across red and white checkers, green bottle of red wine, just so beside white grapes and a yellow rind of cheese. A purple pillow and white rose where a lover should lie. Strawberry tendrils flutter in the breeze around her head, which, in my painting, is still attached to bare beautiful shoulders. When I learned what he had done, how he beheaded her… I wished…oh fuck how I wished…

…that I could love a woman. It would have been Valerie, Valerie. God help me, it should have been Valerie.


**End Note: My Pandora Radio keeps kicking up versions of Amy's "Valerie" song. It knows I have been Googling; searching the lyrics. I should be creeped out, but nope.