To keep warm through the night

What a language it is, the laughter of women,
high-flying and subversive.
Long before law and scripture
we heard the laughter, we understood freedom.

- Lisel Mueller

I can't tell you what it meant to be breathless with laughter with my princess-haired friend without telling you that twenty minutes before she was speaking of her dear friend whose boyfriend is regularly beating her up, and how she suspects they are going to get engaged soon.

I can't tell you about joy, about one of the songs we sang along to, in between cracking up at how the bass made my parents' minivan rattle — far from home, all alone/but we're so happy — without saying also that I wore my throat raw sobbing to the empty space of the car on my way home. (What can/could I do? What is there to do?...)

No, the weight of the laughter that I share with my friends is some function of this litany of pain. The assaults, the abuse, the depression and eating disorders, the scars literal and figurative, all these grievances that I find so uniformly distributed among the women I love. It's not incongruous that we laugh. And it's this honesty that allows it. It is possible to really laugh because we trust each other, and that includes not having to pretend we do not know all these reasons not to laugh.

Despite all this, all these things that so often come with being a woman in this society, we still have laughter. We do. And it is not escape, denial, or forgetting, but the taste of the bitter with the sweet, sweeter for its being so dearly bought. It is the insolence of being joyful with open eyes  and it is our honor, to speak so bold a language. Our fire that we are burning through the night.

8 comments:

kaitlynmauro 7/05/2012 9:25 PM  

Holly, this actually just took my breath away.

Erin 7/05/2012 11:42 PM  

i'm crying, now, because, everything, yes.

thank you for this, for seeing it and writing it.

Holly 7/06/2012 1:07 AM  

kait - oh! thank you...

Erin - you're most welcome. love.

sui 7/06/2012 12:42 PM  

crying too.

...

thank you for existing...

(i wish i felt strong enough to publish publicly again, to move others like this.)

Nicole 7/08/2012 5:13 PM  

Oh Holly you... I have no name for what you are. All the adjectives I know are inadequate.

If I were someone who cries easily, I would be doing it now. But I'm not, so I'm just heart-achy and overflowing wordlessly.

"all these grievances that I find so uniformly distributed among the women I love". It amazes me sometimes that we can hold so much pain and so much love in the same instant.

And the powerlessness. Our laughter and rituals and talking, talking, always talking... the only guard, the only thing we have to balance it.

Sui said it best: "thank you for existing".

Holly 7/10/2012 11:54 PM  

Nicole - "Our laughter and rituals and talking, talking, always talking..." Yes. Yes.

May women never cease to speak and may you and I do what we can to create more space for the speaking. [Thank you for what YOU have spoken.]

Belle 7/18/2012 5:03 PM  

This made me think of this quote from Helene Cixous:
"Women have wept a great deal, but once the tears are shed, there will be endless laughter instead. Laughter that breaks out, overflows, a humor no on would expect to find in women - which is nonetheless surely their greatest strength because it's a humor that sees man much further away than he has ever been seen."

Holly 7/22/2012 1:59 AM  

Belle - I love that. Is it from "The Laugh of the Medusa"?

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