On Balance, Tattoos and Gertrude Stein
A portrait of me (not really... but... right?) by Neryl Walker
I've written lots of posts on balance. Really, all of my posts are about balance in some right: balancing healthful vegan eating and a whiskey-fueled social life full of sparkle-friends who sometimes eat animals; harmonizing with the voices at odds in my punchy, flummoxed frontal lobe (FYI, one voice is sort of raspy and sexy, if not a little lispy, and belongs to the Rose wearing a fringey minidress and platform combat boots, vice-gripping a bedazzled flask of her signature drink -- Champagne mixed with gin -- which is NOT a real thing, even though she'll tell you that it's almost a French 75; and one voice exclusively expresses itself via inflected meows and Twitter, but still manages to convince me not to leave my apartment a great deal of the time. You's a persuasive bish; Emily Dickinson recluse-Rose.) But then there's the third voice, thank you, Universe, who mediates: who sings mezzo soprano to their Macy Gray/mewling coloratura situation.
That voice belongs to me.
Several years ago, I promised my mom I would never get a tattoo. When I went to college, the rules were as follows: inking my unadulterated derma and putting myself in a position to EJECT ANOTHER PERSON FROM MY PERSONAGE/become a young mother were equivalent grounds for being yanked out of academia. I didn't test this threat, and while I'm certain that my marvelous mom would rise to the occasion if I had prematurely become a mom, myself... I know she's damn serious on the tattoo front. So. I don't have any tattoos BUT, and I promise there is a point to follow... I've wanted the same tattoo since I was 17. It's two stanzas from a Gertrude Stein poem called, of course, I am Rose.
I am Rose my eyes are blue
I am Rose and who are you?
I am Rose and when I sing
I am Rose like anything.
As a blue-eyed human named Rose who majored in opera performance and likes to meet other humans and gather tiny, self-defining truths about them, this incidental piece written by a literary genius (named Gertrude, i.e., not Rose) resonates with me -- enough that I've forever dreamed of scribing "I am Rose and when I sing I am Rose like anything" in courier font on my left inner forearm, positioned horizontally 3-4 inches in from my elbow crease (not that I've given this any thought). However, a few years after I graduated with my dual degree in OPERA and POETRY (killin' me, Gertrude) and relegated outright, literal singing to my hobby box... rather than, you know, my life's work box... I decided that maybe Gertrude had steered me wrong; Brunhilde horns and an addiction to Mucinex did not make me "Rose like anything."
It turns out, though, that singing in the abstract does make me the most me. Expressing my voice; my honed and balanced voice; above those of the opposing Roses -- because through years of trial and error, I know what's best for me and I have opinions about what's best for the world — has, indeed, made me Rose like anything. Cutting through the choir of black and white with a sound that is lush and gray and wiggly with vibratto: that's balance. That's how one becomes a person, at least that's how I've become a writer who sings; a vegan who doesn't judge you for your bacon habit; a lush for green juice and tequila; a lady who likes to pen personal essays while her cat sits on her stomach as much as she likes to mack on boys in plaid in her hip, hip hood as much as she likes to paint strange little portraits in the company of friends making baubles out of raccoon bones and teeth (um, craft day was yesterday.) I know who I am because of all the extremes I've been at times too intimately familiar with, the experiences I've gathered like so many raccoon vertebra, the siren calls of identities that don't quite fit. That's how I found my voice.
So anyway. Balance. And Mom, can I get a tattoo?