Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Couched"

This poem is spillover from the February 3, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] dialecticdreamer. It also fills the "ritual marks and body decorations" square in my 9-1-14 card for the [community profile] ladiesbingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by EdorFaus. It belongs to the Danso & Family thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: This poem mentions past child abuse and subsequent insecurities about growing up. Current environment is safe.


On Wednesday afternoons, Hadyn
went to talk with Dr. Melody about
the awful things that had happened
with Hadyn's father and her superpower.

At first it had felt weird and wrong
to talk about things like that,
especially with a stranger;
but Dr. Melody was really nice
and they spent the first few sessions
just drawing pictures and chatting,
until Hadyn knew her well enough
to go into the ickier things.

Dr. Melody was tall and thin, graceful as a heron,
with a long thin face and reddish-brown hair.
She never seemed to wear skirts, always trousers
with smart low-heeled boots, and she loved hats.

Today's hat hung on the curly wooden hatrack,
a stiff shape of see-through black fabric
in the style that Dr. Melody called a cartwheel,
with a big floppy ribbon and two long black feathers
made mostly of little thready bits.

"Hello, Hadyn, it's nice to see you again,"
said Dr. Melody. "Please have a seat.
I look forward to hearing about your week."

Dr. Melody leaned forward, her silver necklace
swinging softly against her blue sweater.
Hadyn remembered that the circle-S design
meant that she had gone through some
bad sex stuff and was willing to help
other people with the same trouble.

Hadyn didn't know if she would ever
feel like wearing one of those herself,
but Dr. Melody said that was okay and
she didn't have to if she didn't want to.

"Hi, Dr. Melody," said Hadyn
as she sat down on the couch.

Hadyn liked Dr. Melody's couch.
It was made all of curvy dark wood
with fuzzy cushions just the color
of the foam on a cup of cocoa.
Where the base of the couch
attached to the fabric was
a row of little bumps that Hadyn
liked to run her fingers over.

"That's a shiny blouse you have today,"
said Dr. Melody. "Is it new?"

Hadyn petted the soft fabric,
yellow at the shoulders fading
through orange to pink, with
small flowers around the hems
and a big one on the chest,
all sprinkled with rhinestones.

"Yeah, I had my birthday last week, so now
I'm eleven, and my friend Kristen came,"
she said. "Mom let me pick out a new top,
but then she asked me what I wanted
for a new privilege and I said that
I didn't know. My new responsibility
is making the after-school snack
one day a week, and making a dish
for supper on a different day."

"That sounds like an exciting choice
for a new responsibility," said Dr. Melody.
"You've told me how much you like cooking."

Hadyn nodded. "Mrs. Durante gave me
a cookbook on baking around the world.
She says a serious cook should try foods
from different places so I can figure out
which things I'm good at making."

"What a clever idea," said Dr. Melody.
"How did you get stuck on privileges, though?
Most of the time you know what you want."

Hadyn ran her fingers over the bumps
on the couch, counting to ten.

"Mom noticed that some other girls my age
are starting to wear makeup," Hadyn said.

"How do you feel about that?" Dr. Melody said.

"I don't know," Hadyn wailed. "Everybody else
is all wanting to do it but it just makes me ..."
She waved her hands in the air.

"Okay," said Dr. Melody. "When you don't know
how you feel about something, that usually means
that your feelings are mixed. That's fine.
Let's see if we can sort them out."

She pulled out a stack of magazines.
Some had women's fashions and others
had teen or preteen girls. There were
sporty and outdoorsy magazines too.

"Look through these and pick out some pictures
of women you like," Dr. Melody suggested,
sitting down on the couch beside Hadyn
and spreading the magazines over their laps.

Hadyn paged through the issues, choosing
a picture of several girls her age chatting together,
a lady in a long black dress looking over her shoulder,
and a teen in a cute purple-and-white ski outfit.

"I've never been skiing," Hadyn said.
"I don't think I'd want blue lipstick, though!"

Dr. Melody chuckled. "Neither would I.
That's probably for ultraviolet protection,
because sun reflecting off the snow
can get pretty fierce."

"The dancing lady looks nice," said Hadyn,
tracing the flow of the skirt with her finger.

"That's a natural style of makeup," said Dr. Melody.
"If you look closely you can see a just a little
shine on her lips. Girls your age often
start with lip gloss and nail polish."

"Yeah, that's what Mom said," Hadyn agreed.

"Plenty of things come in clear or neutral colors,"
Dr. Melody said. "You can get clear lip gloss
or soft shades of cream or pink. There's even
a satin kind of nail polish if you don't like shiny."

Hadyn looked at the frayed ends of her nails.
She'd always had a tendency to snag them
on things, and ever since that awful incident,
she had trouble remembering not to bite them.
"Nail polish might be a good idea," she admitted.

"Makeup has many uses," Dr. Melody said.
"Some girls want to look pretty for boys --
or other girls -- and some just want to look good
for their own pleasure. Other times it serves
a more practical purpose, like protecting your skin
from the sun or wind. Even if the products are the same,
they aren't always couched in the same terms
or have the same applications in practice.

Hadyn stared at the cluster of teens.
"But these girls have on way too much.
They look like ..." She trailed off.

"Remember what we talked about," said Dr. Melody.
"Nobody ever asks to be hurt. I agree that
their makeup isn't the most tasteful, though."

Hadyn sighed. "I guess part of me wants
to grow up, but part of me is scared
that if I look all nice, it will attract
the wrong kind of attention."

"You know, you don't have to wear makeup
at all, if you don't want to," Dr. Melody
said gently. "Not now, not ever."

"People would look at me funny," said Hadyn.

"They might, but it would be their problem,"
said Dr. Melody. "What's the rule about that?"

"Other people's problems are their business
unless they're hurting someone," Hadyn recited.

"That's right. How you want to look is your choice,
based on how you feel inside and what you're doing,"
Dr. Melody said. "Don't let other people push you around."

"I don't want to wind up looking like a clown,"
Hadyn said, flipping the corner of the page.

"Learning to do makeup takes practice,"
Dr. Melody said. "For my thirteenth birthday,
my aunt took me on a trip to a department store.
She had the makeup lady do up my face, and then
bought me my first supplies." With a rueful shake
of her head, Dr. Melody added, "We both got in
so much trouble at home, because it turns out
she didn't ask my mother first, but Mom
didn't make me take everything back."

"That sounds like fun," Hadyn said.
"I wonder if my mom would do that."

"I bet she would if you asked nicely,"
Dr. Melody said. "Your mom's pretty smooth."

"Sometimes when I think about how my father
tried to touch me, I wish that I could stay
a little girl forever," Hadyn admitted,
"but ... that didn't keep me safe."

"A lot of girls feel that way," Dr. Melody said.
"Growing up is a natural part of life, but
you get to decide what it means for you and
what kind of woman you want to become."
Her fingers tapped each picture in turn.
"You could be a socialite with lots of friends,
a graceful dancer, a bold explorer -- it's up to you,
and you will figure out how to express that
through clothes, makeup, and other things."

"Can I ... have a copy of this picture?"
Hadyn asked, looking at the one of the dancer
with her barely-there lipstick. "It might be easier
to talk this over with Mom if I could show her
instead of trying to describe it."

"Of course," said Dr. Melody,
leading the way to the copy machine.

Hadyn thought about what she wanted to be,
and how maybe she could get there
if she took baby steps.

She didn't want to feel trapped
by her father's mistake forever,
even though it had taken their home
and his life and a big chunk of her innocence.

Maybe a little lip gloss and nail polish
could help her figure out whether or not
she liked makeup and how she wanted to look.

Besides, it would be fun to go out
with her new mom, just the two of them, like
the girls in her class were always talking about
doing with their own mothers.

Sometimes what Hadyn wanted most
was just to feel normal again.

* * *


Dr. Melody Reid -- She has fair skin with brown eyes and wavy mahogany hair to her shoulders. She is tall and thin with a long face. In junior high and high school, Melody starred on the basketball team, so she has always seen her height as an advantage. She likes dating short men and thinks they're cute.
Just after she graduated from medical school, she was raped, and so she went back to school to learn about counseling and gender studies. Now Dr. Melody specializes in treating survivors of child abuse or sexual assault. She belongs to the Sisterhood of Skadi, a social club for tall women. Sometimes she analyzes things too much instead of acting on them.
Uniform: Professional clothes, but she prefers trousers to skirts to allow her long legs a free stride. She also likes low-heeled boots and expressive hats. She wears the Sowilo rune to identify herself as a survivor of sexual violence who is willing to help others.
Qualities: Master (+6) Counselor, Master (+6) Gender Studies Scholar, Expert (+4) Emotional First Aide, Expert (+4) Hat Collector, Expert (+4) Intuition, Good (+2) Basketball Player, Good (+2) Doctor, Good (+2) Poise, Good (+2) Sisterhood of Skadi
Poor (-2) Overthinking

* * *

In Terramagne, survivors of sexual abuse or assault who are willing to help others wear a symbol with the rune Sowilo inside a circle, similar to this but with the rune touching the rim.

Art therapy is useful in counseling, especially for survivors of sexual abuse. It can help reduce trauma symptoms. Here are some art therapy exercises for your collection of coping skills.

This is the fancy hatrack in the office, and the new hat. This guide to hat styles includes the cartwheel type.

Here is Hadyn's blouse.

Hannah's family traditions include giving a new privilege and new responsibility on birthdays. This is much more common in T-America than here.

Kids can cook, and it helps to have suitable recipes for them. Here are some online examples. Check out Baking Around the World.

Girls typically become interested in makeup as preteens, but often overdo it. There are tips for tween makeup and the natural look. A matte coat and nude nail polish look subtle. (Bear in mind that some nude makeup is transparent, while other types match different skin tones, so "nude" could be nearly clear or any shade from ivory to dark chocolate.) Matte lip balm and subtle colors of lip gloss are also available.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, gender studies, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing

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