Continuing on my thread of meditations on body, love, and beyond. It dawns on me the need to unravel my mind a bit, too. The image above helps me to ground some ideas about the mythical, shifting nature of my body, the elements that comprise of my race, and the lived and inherited shame. I may come back to revise some of this, it seems a bit clunky still, also.
My identity, one that intersects across a Male, Queer, British Bangla diaspora, of Muslim heritage, but now relatively agnostic / atheist.. is one that envelopes the feeling of being a minority, but also a majority in some junctions of my identity when I am in Bangladesh – and partially of the male, Bengali patriarchy. It is complex, as drifting from space to space, can and does mean so many different things, especially in how the body is interpreted. What is important to acknowledge though, in the not being fully one identity, my identity of fragments, also make me who I am.
A slight diversion; Shame, is about that societal, collective shame that I was raised in, that shame which exists to belittle or deny our right to be. In this instance, shame is a lingering, passive aggressor, it creeps on me. I dare not share for shame, for what that shame means to me, is not important – what it is, is a collective angst towards conforming to societal norms. What other people think accordingly has been a mantra I’v grown up around, and have sometimes vehemently rejected. Yet, my protest or rejection to deny shame its grip on my mind and body, on my ability to love and be loved is not so violent. It erupts, in fragments, and especially in conversations. So, I reflect on this, in other readings, in my art, in references to concepts of self-care, in conversations with friends, in understanding trauma(s) that I have experienced over time, finding coping mechanisms that work for me. But also, sharing. In the leaving of religion, there is shame. In the declaration of sexuality, there is shame. In the calling out of abuse, naming the abuser, there is shame. Shame envelopes entire beings, it can rip at the core of our self in ways that is impossible to see, witness, or bare.
It is this, that forces me to often come back to self portraits, in this instance, in turning the camera on my self, I am at once being narcissistic, and at the other, allowing myself to be vulnerable, to be objectified, which becomes a safe space, but also to be potentially fetishised. In the various sub-cultures that I occupy, one straddled across queer, diaspora landscapes, of the UK, of hints of BDSM, and beyond. Of course, it seems I am also unable to call shame out, to destroy its structural grip on my self. So I resort to this making of art and an attempt to write about it as a reflection instead on self-love. IF I am to put my previous meditation on queer love, namely; the pursuit, the anticipation and the emancipation of self-love. What would it mean? Straddled with the phenomena of how I articulate my self to the outside world, physically, visibly. Does this being need to pursue to self love? It comes pre-loaded with shame. The pursuit is one am uncomfortable with. Why? because it means acknowledging and loving parts of the self that are filled with fault, that carry shame. Those experiences have specific traumatic blots on the mind. The pursuit of self love is riddled with challenges. Yet, there IS a pursuit. This somehow is also comforting. That am willing to pursue self love, perhaps at a cost? Perhaps meekishly at first, unsure about the approach. Yet, it is there.
In critiquing my self, in best a form I can, through art, through reflexive writing, I conjure up fantasies of my self, this miraculous, wonderful and somewhat Bangladeshi vessel that had wants and desires that cannot be fully expressed. Until they are. This seems always momentary. The forgetting of, rather than moving on from, shame. The pursuit of clarity, of clarifying how self love sits, within the wider acknowledgements of different loves.
The shame, which has seemed relatively permanent, has required constant unworking. And in the past few years of pushing my limits in exploring, willingly challenging those pillars that were steadfastly grounded as shame. Through arguments and confrontations with my self, with others, in re-presentations and conversations, here I am. Not so vulnerable, yet, the self love, the pursuit of it, is quite real. There is a fear to self love too. I can anecdotally reflect back to childhood. Childhood, where we first learn to do all the things we do for the rest of our lives. In this childhood, shame is also a pillar. In watching, seeing, hearing and not understanding then, what this idea of shame was, embedded deep into a subconsciousness that can turn to self-hate in the future, even in the present, and beyond. How to anticipate self-love? It seems like an elastic band at times, pushing it to its limit, and just like that, am snapped back to a different point of shame.
In anticipation of self-love, I reflect on the various moments I have taken to journal, offline, to read, to draw, and explore through my thoughts. The most privilege of things, is time, to be able to reflect. The time it has taken to undo the deep rooted concepts of shame. The time it will take to continue undoing. In liberating my self, especially the body, through self-love, in anticipating it as a truth to my self, there is something being nurtured. This enamoured emancipation towards self love can occur, in fleeting moments.
The body, becomes something to learn from, it teaches me what my mind cannot, what literature, and theory cannot. It teaches me, that what I see in the mirror, is real. The camera, however can play tricks, I can play with lighting, I distort the reality. I come with a tainted identity it seems. This taint, impacts the anticipation of self-love.
So rather, this idea of acknowledgement of the lived experience, this current time, space and place creates a certain environment for me to reflect. This moment, affords me to critique a past body that I have also lived in. The body becomes an important part of the path to self-love for me, because it is the only body that I live with. It was, and is interesting to reflect on where I have come to, so far. So is it about forgiveness also? Do I need to think about how to treat past experiences better? There is no escaping some of them, they will regurgitate in dreams and reflections over time, and again.
To conclude then, this encapsulates, for me, a queering of self love too, of revealing me to myself, my ability to think about and beyond this. In thinking about the body, further, deeper, politicised somewhat now, because of its queerness and it sits there, unknown. Its ability to explore and push fetishes, boundaries and pursue ideas that I maybe uncomfortable with. This self love, of this body, is critical too. I dont occupy one particular community, nor do I feel like I belong to one. What I do have, is friends and family that I care about, and that I hope care about me. Here I am, writing, exploring, and attempting make sense of a journey towards self love. It has helped, to create mechanisms to cope, when that love is not offered. OR yet to be offered. Its a strange feeling, awaiting to acknowledge love for your self. Yet, it is this balancing, this deliberate play of mind and body that flickers between real and dream.
I’d just had a very brief exchange of texts with a friend, on our joint appreciation of Italo Calvino’s The Invisible City. And just like that, I’d felt the desire to reflect and meditate on love. Some more context needed perhaps? *We are amidst the most important historical phenomena to exist in our lifetime so far – the COVID19 Pandemic, so reflecting on an aspect of love, not all of love, by any means – but also, no more context than that.
I’ve come back and forth on this, perhaps in the blog a few times too. I’d have to scroll to find them -not now but I’ll reference them sometime. Today, it still dawns on me how difficult it is to put into words this phenomena, this thing called love. My approach has often been quite arbitrary, taking elements of my readings in the past that explored the concept through more philosophical lens. And just my experiences, as I’ve journaled, reflected and had many diverse conversations about. In falling in love, in being in love, in falling out of love, in the love that seems to be changing. In its multiple facets, it is embedded in darkness and its lightness. In the pursuit of love, in the anticipation of love, in the emancipation and being in love, that love conjures up.
In the pursuit of love, one gets lost, I get lost, its frenetic, its charged, its every last moment, every possible breath, the pursuit to hear those words being uttered, or to express them. The fear and the adrenaline is intoxicated. In the pursuit of that queer love, that love that doesn’t fix itself in that happily ever after. That pursuit that happens over a few hours, over a few days, over months. It lingers though, the feelings, the meaning, and as I type here on the blog – up pings a message on my screen ‘ I love you’. That made me smile. HE likes it when I smile.
Yet, the pursuit, its purpose, entirely, seems to fixate on to something to chase. Chasing love. The question is not, is there more love elsewhere? but how does one differentiate that love, with this love, how does one, pursue that other love? That love thats not defined in that box of a hetero/homo, mono/poly? It’s fucking scary sometimes, that pursuit. What does it mean to expressly pursue it? In conversations about relationships, love, often is a neglected component. I’ve struggled with that, I’ve fixated on that neglect. I’ve grown up in and around relationships that have required huge sacrifices, of pain, abuse – physical, emotional, mental, and neglect, or perhaps negation of love and of tolerance. This endured tolerance as a symbol of love. I’m overly curious about that. How does one create love-relationships? What have I observed, even in my own pursuit for love, when do I stop? When do I know? This is perhaps how I am exploring a love that is queer. This defining, refining the meaning of love that is queer, this unstructured free love, this queer love that is relentlessly unwilling to be boxed.
And yet, in the anticipation of love, in receiving love, that has been much much harder to accept. It continues to be so. Those of us, raised in the ashes of trauma, in experiences beyond our control as children, are left to question the integrity of love that is offered. Question, even the very essence of it, its meaning, its purpose. Its queerness is unacceptable, its an inability to acknowledge at times, that we can, as much as we pursue love, we can, just as well receive it. Despite this reassurance, these mantras and meditations and note to selfs, these moments of solitude, in offerings of gratitude, to life, love, universe, to nature. Its still weird to hear it. This anticipation of love being offered, is just as scary now, as it was then. In not speaking about it often enough, in decluttering the language of love, I question how we move forwards.
In the emancipation that love offers, in the being. In the present time and momentary appreciation of love, I wonder again, this queer love, what have I done to deserve such emancipation? Where does this emancipation take me next? Where does the overwhelming queer love sit, in my politics, in my work, in my being? How do I absolve the pursuits, the anticipations, and unshackle myself from both? Do I need to? Is it to accept that as this love emancipates my being, it will also do the same for others? How silly of me to assume this, and not recognise the absolute privilege this is. I’d been thinking, overthinking, or reflecting, the class, race, gender, sexuality and creed or none – that exists- within how love is pursued, how it’s seen, its rejected, how love is anticipated, or never expressed or experienced, and how love does emancipate the privileged even further, it is explained and appreciated. Archived.
The pursuits, and of those that reject my love, because of my race, gender, sexuality, class, often they are interwoven into this cacophony of rejections, so why continue the pursuit? Why pursue something that may damage or hurt, especially our emotional being. In the pursuit, there is truth. In that truth, rejection, in whoever and however it is given, is taken as part of the pursuit. Its unfairness, the collateral. My privilege is to be aware of this, this pursuit that has no shame.
Yet, in anticipation, I keep surprising myself. In pushing my boundaries to receive love, from whoever, irrespective of their class, race, gender, creed, sexuality, it is still difficult to do so. It is not easy. I have created boxes of whom and where I can receive love from. I anticipate it from specific types, to unshackle that, is also a pursuit.
Do I have a conclusion to this meditation? perhaps not. As with anything related to love, its never-ending. Yet, this archiving, of love, of queer love, being done now by many, yet still not enough, globally, is shedding light in this dark queer world of love. Its emancipation will and does continue in ways that are not appreciated always by me. Yet my own emancipations continue on, I meditate and reflect on it, with fresh eyes sometimes, more often with beleaguered tired thoughts. Appreciate those who’ve read this far!
And in closing this particular set of thoughts, in Calvino’s Invisible Cities, he says ‘“Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.” It is this, that this idea of queer love, it is morphing, growing, dwindling, appearing and disappearing. It also means refining, not rules, but meanings of queer love and ways of expressing, pursuing, anticipating that love. A love that emancipates the being.
Here is a link to Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities as a PDF : https://designopendata.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/calvino_italo_invisible_cities.pdf
In the midst of the overarching self isolation, social distancing, lock down, quarantine, am blessed and very privileged to be on my own mostly. It prompted this particular conversation with my self, as I talked to various friends, lovers, others, about body hair, one that has been on going for years now. Some prefer to keep it, others like it on others but will shave their own, some trim it, some can’t live without it, and yet some, envy it as they can’t grow as much as they would like. Often, thats left to the top part of the body – facial hair, head full of hair. Every other aspect of body hair becomes quite a taboo subject. I brush on it, as there are many others who’ve explored, queried, documented and challenged it better than I am doing here, maybe. Its mostly about self worth though, and self love, for me.
My reflection really is that, to embrace a big aspect of my truth, body hair was something that was used to make me feel shit. In the years of puberty, I’d grown hair, thick, curly, black hair, on legs, armpits, elsewhere. This was a point of ridicule in school and often in the playgrounds- perhaps I was saved a lot of that ridicule because I was unable to fathom I was being picked upon, or had an actual response to the insults, and as religions had their own set of rules to follow regarding body hair for men, there was attempts to then remove, trim, hide it. It left me, as a grown up 20 something year old, being confused about what to do with all this hair. And in the end, I decided to just let it grow.
There are moments, especially with new encounters with a potential lover, that the negotiation of hair ( armpit, pubes, chest, face ) become a point of contention. Do I give in to that one momentary lust filled desire to pursue, and shave them off, and have a new adventure? Then, who have I become? In challenging my own perception of my self, in learning to accept aspects of me, hair, becomes a significant fragment. One that seems to be loaded with so many different opinions – all of which are perhaps equally valid. So why do I care to write about it here? Accept me with the hair that I have, although seems inconsequential, it helps to define a clear boundary about bodies. Especially how I feel about my own body.
I write about it, now, partially because am continually curious about the way people perceive me, the fetishisation of my skin colour in the UK ( there has been enough chat up lines that started with, ‘I love your skin colour’ and especially south asians’ which made me feel orientally objectified ), and a counter to that – the disgust of my body hair in Bangladesh from some ( ‘It’s gross that you have all that hair everywhere’, I have been blocked and I have had to block sometimes ) – of course some generalisations, but there have been more than enough conversations in both those spaces ( UK, Bangladesh ) about different aspects of me that people have perceived opinions on and challenged me or insulted me about. I won’t pretend there hasn’t been abusive conversations in relation to my body hair. My last encounter / conversation with a young man in Bangladesh involved this issue – petered around the issue of cleanliness and hygiene and length of body hair, and that the ‘locals’ here ( Bangladeshi ) are not clean and why often only engaged with foreigners. There is so much to unpack in that, but I am not their therapist, nor here to listen endlessly to drivel. There is more to say on this, but perhaps I will write another post about that later.