OR, THE SAME INSTINCT RUNS
THROUGH IT ALL
BY ZADIE SMITH
1. The Pretty Girl
Everybody’s asking why she did it. Each time she meets an old acquaintance in the street it is like the bloody Spanish Inquisition. It’s as if she came back from a war, legless. She has started making daily dates with every friend and family member – lunches, cinema, swims – back to back, so that by the end of a two-week period everyone will be resolved to the fact that she has cut it off. And this process will help her refine her explanation. To something like: It was time. Or: I just felt like it. For at the moment the explanation is lacking coherence because the reasons go back some way but, for instance, she recalls that she had made earlier experiments into unprettification; had found that the smallest modifications were enough to wrong foot the man who sells papers and the men on the tube and then the men in the city and then (to a lesser degree) the colleagues, and that these people believed her to be a different girl altogether if she turned up one morning with no mascara and a huge woolly fleece or conversely tied herself up by invisible means (four belts lined up next to each other, hidden under clothes, performing the office of a corset) and created this silhouette the specifications of which were so rigid, so comically exact, that she imagined some kind of basic video-game interface, like the world is Pac Man to these people and the Pretty Girl is the collectable dot, spotted in a second and for no good reason invaluable amongst all this misshapen fruit. It was too easy. And then, as the science became more subtle, the relative power of different silhouettes on different men in different streets in different socio-economic bandwidths became clear because there is some truth in this suspicion that the proletariat likes an infantile (from the point of the viewer) mutation of the breast, gargantuan and overhanging, like a metastasising tumour meant to emphasise this thoracic pinch in the middle, after which the legs are irrelevant, whereas legs are everything to the Bourgeois, long please, length in everything, carriage clocks, wardrobes, even at the expense of the curve for therein lies their epicene idea of elegance and so she could, when the occasion demanded, deck herself out like a tall light fitting or the edge of a bookshelf, all unforced lines and all natural (and we’re talking here worked-on nature, like their gardens, like their children) and because contempt was the net result of all this (of knowing so well what to tweak and when, how to become invisible, or conversely, how to become so fuckable as to be painful to the eye, how to manufacture a desperate grimace on a sandy-haired innocent who is just trying to enjoy his drink and watch the football and never asked for the doors to open and), and because she had come to feel like a blue-collar employee of stuff like her executive breasts and her associate fingernails, her partner legs and above all this fucking boardroom hair, she had become like the malevolent comedian who knows too well when the laughter will come, who resents his audience and wishes them ill because they laugh where he intended them to laugh, who begins to mistime a punchline to wrong-foot these people who pay his rent with their laughter – it was in this spirit that she decided to make the decision which she already knew - prior to the act - would be formulated by her mother and all other significant female relatives as cutting off one's nose to etc and also that men would weep as they have done throughout history for lost hair instead of things like, well, lost life, but it was getting to be like it was either Her or It. Yes, even in the middle of being taken from behind the Pretty Girl was thinking of how hard she would be if she were ever behind herself sticking it to herself, tugging a fistful of her own hair, dramatising the ancient idea of being ridden; slapping her own ass, riding it, therefore, into the sunset, until she reached some distant prairie town, with one saloon, one Sheriff’s office and one cloudy-glassed barbers in front of which there is a revolving demonstration of a strip of red eliding ad infinitum into a strip of white, in front of which there are other tragic horses, standing bored, a fly on each eyelash, in front of which she dismounts herself, knots her tail to the awning, moseys into a thin room lined with silent men and convinces their leader, the ancient Tiresias, him with the dickie tie and the trousers hitched under his drooping dugs, with the ivory-handled scissors in his hands, held tip down and away from her, she tells this guy to stop protesting, please, just stop it and carry on and sit me down and take off everything I ever had.
Part II of five may follow one day.
B R A V E S O U L S R E C E I V E
Eyeshot's Friendly & Infrequent Update
simply type your e-mail address below, or
learn more about eyeshot-brand spam
Archive of Recent Activities
The Open Hand of Eyeshot's Humility