. . . Taking on the Body: Rhodessa Jones
I went to see Rhodessa Jones do her one woman show "Hot Flashes, Power Surges & Private Summers" last night. First of all, let me tell you, Yes, she did wear this dress. It was about turning fifty and losing her period and seeing herself in the line of women from her great grandmother to her granddaughter. It made me stretch to think about all the scandalous (at times raunchy) topics she covered (complete with the refrain "vaginavaginavagINAAAAA") alongside remembrance of her ancestors and tribute to her descendants.
When Keith and I first sat down, the woman sitting next to Keith said to him: "You're very brave, you're one of only a few men in here." We looked around and noticed how true this statement was. There were about two to three hundred people in the room and maybe only fifteen of them were men. Walking to our car after the show, we talked about how wonderful and amazing it is to be able to speak to your audience so directly. We talked about never having seen an audience of women, older women at that, come out to a show, not in couples, but in groups.
In the question and answer period that followed, you could hear and see how much women in their fifties and above wanted to see themselves and see themselves fully -- not as over the hill, over sexuality, over. But as fully alive women in a new phase of life. I've never been the type to be afraid of getting old, but it made me happy about getting older to see art being made towards women over fifty and women over fifty coming out to see it.
On the way to the car, our conversation was interrupted as a group of drunken white frat boys wearing togas came up behind us talking nigger this and nigger that. They were saying something about how 'street' and 'black' they were. For a long time they walked right behind Keith and me. As if carried by the sound of their voices, a rage creeped over me. I didn't look at Keith. I closed my eyes. All I could see in my mind's eye were fantasies of grabbing them by their necks and wringing them. I imagined myself growing taller and stronger, hurting them, surely, but scaring the living daylights out of them first.
You should know: There is so much war and violence in the world and I am particularly conscioius of it now. I often feel that my efforts to stop it are so tiny. I do believe, though, that positive energy makes a difference, that making up one's mind to be peace does contribute to the general energy available in the world. So I didn't want these violent fantasies. Not today.
As the group slowly passed us (there were like 25 of them), one smallish boy (he was probably a Yalie, too, but looked about 16) looked at Keith, who didn't look back. Was the boy scared? Was he taunting? I think he was a little of both. Wanting to see how effective they had been. My anger increased as I noted how invisible I was. I leaned forward and gave the boy the look the 7 ft tall version of me was giving them in my mind. At this point, I was through with being peace and wished he would look into my eyes. He never bothered to look at me.
Sometimes I think my anger is strongest when people read my skin color and/or gender and/or size and decide I'm not angry or that they need not be afraid of me.
When they were several yards ahead of us, Keith just shook his head and said, "Crazy." He picked right back where he left off, thinking about how marvelous it was that Rhodessa Jones brought all these women out to the theater together. I was amazed that he could simply diffuse me like that, take me back to what was right in the word. Those boys were still cavorting in front of us, but my mind went back to the theater now, back to Rhodessa, to us.
copyright Mendi Lewis Obadike 2002