What You Won’t See by Jenny Forrester

Editor Carrie Ivy, Editor's Choice, May 14th, 2013

I’m erasing some things with words...

jenny forrester essay

“You can do anything you put your mind to.”

My mama says this to me all my growing up years, to be supportive, to insert subtle guilt, and to steep me in shame because I fail to get a city job with city girl hair and city girl fingernails, and I fail to become beautiful and I fail to have it all, all at once like she could have if she’d been my age and had all my opportunities.

But I become a mother and a wife and I think I’m making the world a better, sweeter place. I find a school for my daughter that is kind and good and smart. But then planes crash into buildings and hate like the hate of my small town growing up rises. My daughter will grow up in a world where the small town hate of my childhood will become a national hate. My generation has failed.

The hate rises stronger than it had in awhile and I don’t mean the hate of the suicidal maniac Muslims in those planes. I mean the homicidal maniac Christians who are related to me by blood, by race, by ideology and by privilege.

My brother re-enlists at the age of 35 to get rid of Islam once and for all and then he becomes a tea bag, tea partier – it’s the newest name for what we’ve always been in my family. We’ve called it conservative, we’ve called it republican, we’ve called it Christian, we’ve called it pullin’ on our bootstraps American. We can do anything we put our minds to.

So, I am erasing some things from this world.

Note that I am German-descended and there are problems with me erasing things, and saying that I’m erasing things, that I have a solution. I know that it’s also problematic because my ancestors killed Indians or looked the other way or killed the buffalo in order to kill the Indian and did it with the mindset that they were keeping balance in the west.

The blonde blue-eyed Mormons in towns that weren’t my town would say, “Are you LDS?” They wanted to know if I could be so that their blonde, blue-eyed ideal could be born through me, too.

Men and women who are racists talk to me as if I’m one of them. So I know what you see when you see me.

I’m that television-creation by big-body hating, wife-despising, mother-blaming, anti-feminist, anti-liberal, anti-anti-anti-media.

I’m that blonde, blue-eyed consumer vision, painted by skinny, liberal boys, educated, re-educated, you’re not my friend, you liberal boys who think this way. I’m that blonde blue-eyed mama big belly who’s played the big bear protector. I’m not young, I’m not beautiful, I’m not remarkable.

But I can do anything I put my mind to.

I’m erasing some things with words.

I hear young men whooping and hollering when women tell stories of pain. I think these men like to hear the pain of women, they like to hear our cries. We tell each other about our pain and we do not holler, we do not celebrate. We nod. We applaud a quiet love. We cling to gratitude for the strength of women.

People have told me that it’s a good thing I didn’t have a son because I hate men.

I think I’ve been hating my husband for 25 years if that’s true.

I’ve heard that because I’m blonde and blue-eyed and a consumer, a fat woman that I’m the source of evil and pain in this world and there’s this undercurrent that if I just died, the world would die less slowly without me in it.

I won’t grant this wish though it will happen someday anyway. I will instead, change the way you see me, change the way you hear me, change the way you want me to die.

I’ll tell stories so the hate goes away, but is seen, so it’s not forgotten like Sophie Scholl’s head. She was not a good German. I will separate from the body that isn’t what you see now.

I can change what you see.

You see my severed head, my mind reading, my soul spilling out. You see how my blond, blue-eyed baby daughter looked when she was born and remade me into a mama. You see how my husband sees me when we spend time together after all these years. You see what he sees when he tells me that I can do anything I put my mind to when I become ashamed of my loud voice, my big body, my voracious appetite for words, when I become ashamed of my anger because I forget that it isn’t a sin. You see what he sees when he tells me to keep writing my stories that kill fictional men who aren’t really fictional. I kill them with knives, with machetes, with ideas because they deserve it. And I can do anything I put my mind to.

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writer jenny forresterJenny Forrester is co-editor of The People’s Apocalypse with Ariel Gore. She won the 2011 Richard Hugo House New Works Competition and was runner up with her fiction, “American Charity.” She co-curates the Unchaste Readers Series.


Carrie Ivy

Carrie Ivy (formerly Carrie Seitzinger) is Editor-in-Cheif and Co-Publisher of NAILED. She is the author of the book, Fall Ill Medicine, which was named a 2013 Finalist for the Oregon Book Award. Ivy is also Co-Publisher of Small Doggies Press.