In high school, some friends and I had a crush on this one boy. Or. We thought he was cute, I guess, and funny, and smart. And he had really nice calves. We thought this was the funniest, weirdest thing to appreciate about someone: the shape of his calves. What even was that? We giggled about it all the time, and walked up stairs behind him, watching those muscles flex. It didn’t occur to me until really very recently that you just can’t see a man’s thighs in the kind of shorts boys were wearing, then, and are mostly wearing now. All we meant was a completely ordinary, adolescent thing, the kind of thing boys were only supposed to say to us girls, that we somehow didn’t have the language for ourselves. What we meant was: he had really nice legs.
This thing happens, inevitably, at some point when I’m in bed with someone. I mean, lying around, post-coital. He will catalogue for me the parts of my body he likes best. He’s been taught how to appreciate a woman for each of her features in turn, to think long and hard about which ones he likes, and then to offer them up to her, as a compliment. I’m not complaining; I’m not asking them to complain. I’m just saying, you know, I never know what to say in return. No one ever taught me how to tell a man: I like your shoulders, your waist, your belly, your mouth.
One of my favorite parts about writing this book was writing about the main character, a teenage girl, getting up close to a boy’s body for the first time. It felt impossibly illicit to catalogue the mundane things I’ve spent years developing a vocabulary for, all the tender parts of men’s bodies I’ve learned to recognize and appreciate. They’re so funny, and always covered in ridiculous clothes— until you get them into bed, and then they take off those clothes, and lie there in the dark with you, and tell you about how they like to look at you. Once that’s out of the way they tell you other things, too, there in the dark, where no one is looking at anyone, and you can forget for a minute that you’re supposed to be responsible to your body, or your idea of your self.
I recently read a couple of books in a row— one by a woman, one by a man— that spent pages on male narrators describing the lush bodies of teenage girls. God it was exhausting. Claustrophobic. It made my skin feel tight, like: the shape of me will always be fruit, either ripe or spoiled. Like the inside of a girl’s head was empty or impenetrable, and either way besides the point.
Why read YA? People have been asking, and I could give a fuck, honestly. Read whatever it is you want to read. So why write YA, I ask myself. Because I could write other things. But I want to offer at least one teenage girl a vocabulary for her desires, or the idea that there is one. There’s not what’s inside her head and the shape of her body, one irrevocably private, the other unavoidably public. When you grow up learning about sex from the media, you imagine it’s all about looking; when you grow up a (straight) girl, you imagine that it’s all about how men want or don’t want to look at you.
It’s so surprising, when it happens, and it turns out it’s about touch, and reaction, and relationship. Reaching into a space between yourself and someone else, and saying: here. But you have to figure out where you are, first, and that inside of you is a place, too. If you don’t have words for it yet, that’s not because it’s unspeakable. That’s what I learned, when I finally started giving things names: that my desire was unmapped, but not so unfamiliar after all. It looked like everyone else’s, actually, lumpy, particular, personal, fine. I wanted and wanted and wanted. Just like everyone else. And, more than that: I allowed to say so.
So I just read this insanely beautiful book called POINTE by brandycolbert. And I’m kind of obsessed with it now. It’s got it all—ballet and darkness and hot guys and creepy guys and FEELS. Plus it was beautiful written. Plus there are Themes Which Are Haunting, which makes this an amazing book to give to my teen and adult library patrons.
And I liked it so much that I’d like to give away a copy! The task to win is deceptively simple: you must guess my favorite dance movie. Which is a movie where dancing is a substantial and central part of the story, and I’ll even give you a bonus hint, it’s not Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. You’re welcome.
Reblogging not because I want to win a copy of my own book, but because bethanyhagen has just made my day with this lovely post (so, so happy you connected with it, Bethany!) and I think YOU should try to win a copy of my book. Yes, I do.
(Also, is there any other favorite dance movie besides Center Stage? IS THERE.)
How bad could that be?
How fun is that?
How’s that for easy?
How good does that look?
How good does this look?
Who could turn that down?
Isn’t that great?
Who wouldn’t want that for their birthday?
Who wouldn’t want that for his birthday?
We need a nice cocktail for breakfast, don’t we?
Who wouldn’t like that for breakfast?
How’s that for a fast sauce?
Who wouldn’t want that for dessert?
Isn’t that fantastic?
Why make regular raspberry sauce when you can make triple raspberry sauce?”
Now, who wouldn’t want that for their birthday?
Now, who wouldn’t want to marry you if you made them this?
Who wouldn’t want to eat that?
How fast is that?
Does that look good?