Dear Reader:

During my (visual) silence these past few months, Iíve been taking mental notes on the body. Iím taking them for an essay Iím going to write when I get the time. In the meantime, I am slowly writing them down and plan to send them to you over the next week. Expect disjuncture. Read between the lines for yourself.

Mental Notes Iíve Been Taking on the Body: Writing vs. Speaking

1. [1] I have decided that part of the reason why I am so Ďloudí in my writing is because people canít see or hear me. I donít like to look at people while they look at me. Sometimes I get distracted trying to think about what they see and canít think so much about what I want to say. I start thinking about how I look or how it looks to say a certain thing. I think about how it looks to say a certain thing when Iím writing, but thereís a time lag. I donít have to worry about what it looks like to write something as Iím writing it (unless Iím in a chatroom), so the writing just flows. When Iím speaking, I am conscious of the inability to go back and edit what Iíve said. I try to edit midsentence or simply miss the moments when what I have to say would be most relevant to the conversation at hand.

Iím not as comfortable with people hearing me speak as I am with them reading my words unless theyíre hearing me say something Iíve already composed. This has something to do with the way I assimilated into Southern US American culture as a child, with a softness in my voice that sometimes undercuts the points I make and sometimes underscores them. I get distracted by how I sound or how I ought to sound or what the tone I take will mean to my listener.

Now, Iím not sure how to say what this has to do with the body. What Iíve just written seems to be about how sound and vision work in ways that arenít wholly dependent on the presence or absence of my body. But what provoked me to write it has something to do with the presence or absence of my body at a scene. If what you look at as you get what Iím Ďsayingí is not me but my words, then I can at least feel that what you are judging is not my body (which is far too often invoked as a symbol of irrationality), but rather, my logic (which is tight).

This is ultimately a question of control. [2] I try not to think of the fact that my body is invoked in my writing or the fact that my voice can be imagined or the fact that when what I have to say is undermined by the trope of irrational blacks and women and black women it is because ignorant people are going to respond to the idea that my body comes with limited brain power whether my body is physically there or not.

Still thinking about peace,
Mendi Lewis Obadike

[1] These notes are numbered only for the visual effect. In no way do the numbers reflect the order in which the ideas were noted in my mind.

[2] I fought the urge to add "isnít it?" here. If I were speaking, Iíd probably have just said it and regretted it. "Isnít it?" is one of the reasons why Iím afraid to move to England. That and the kind of soft voice so many British women have. I am so affected by other peopleís speech that I pick it up. Itís not completely involuntary. I love other peopleís speech and other peopleís speech melodies. In Leeds, I was beginning to get a softer voice and a light British melody. It had something to do with liking to hear the voice do new kinds of things. Iím afraid to move to England, though, because I tend to be more direct when my voice is not so soft and lilting and when my sentences end with statement-period rather than statement-a bit of doubt-question mark. I like myself more when I am direct.