You perfect, small thing. You are made entirely of soul and energy and emotion. You are every emotion at the same time, the infinite range of human feeling humming inside you, there—just there. I can see it in these photos I hold where your eyes are closed and your mouth open in song, where your tiny arms stretch the lacy fabric you’ve draped around your body, creating a display, making a scene, posturing and posing and calling all the attention to your efforts simply because expression is worth sharing. Self-expression is a joyful, shareable thing and besides, you don’t know any better.
Your body is memory-less. You’ve yet to feel the overwhelming and oppressive and all-consuming weight of the lifelong gauntlet of judgment that awaits you. You exist here in the grace period, the infinitesimal amount of time that some humans get to crawl, climb, dance, and dream unfettered, to drape yourself in lace and not draw ire, to wear your mother’s heels and witness only the laughter your scenemaking brings to the room. There are no memories yet of an enraged parent discovering you covered in makeup or a crowd of your peers collectively deriding your wish to “be the mom” in the playground fantasy you’re all creating together. Nothing in your experience to warn you about the regulations of gender or the expectations of boyhood, no little traumas to alert you that everything has rules, from clothing to conduct to color, yes, even colors have unwritten but widely acknowledged principles for appropriate use.
You will encounter hot pinks and bold purples and the most delicate pastel greens and yellows and they will each explode in your imagination like a kaleidoscope but there are rules for colors and you will learn which ones must remain sequestered in fantasy and which you may wear on your body, this perfect, small human body with its vast capacity for memory and its wisdom for processing information and its aptitude for feeling pain. Your body, your powerful small body will go through a million little traumas and yet it will faithfully bear your forward, despite how you will learn to neglect and ignore it, despite how you will damage it, beat it into submission, despite the messages you will internalize that say the body is a wicked thing—necessary, yes, but only for a short while, only until you are liberated from it, and you will believe these things, that your body is something to escape.
After your grace period is over, every experience you have will drive home the teaching that your mind and your spirit must, and must, and must have mastery over your body, so that your body becomes a wretched, mistreated, gnarled thing, carrying its grief like stones inside, forced to serve the mind and the soul but cut off from them, removed with surgical precision from the trinity of you, demoted to nothing more than a means of transport. The body is where contact happens, it is where emotion happens, it is where lust and pleasure and taste and butterflies and orgasms and hugs and sight and communication all happen, but yours will be forbidden these things and more because the body, you are taught and come to believe, is a wicked thing that you will one day be liberated from, so let it atrophy while you devote your energies to the soul and the mind, the lasting things, the parts of you that will carry on after your body finally fails its last failure and releases you to the ether above.
You perfect, small thing, still thriving in your grace period. How I want to save you, spare you, drown you in assurance that every impulse you feel is the right one, every emotion that rises is correct, every song and tantrum and affection and revulsion, every swell and tingle and pulse and thrum and ache is worthy. Self-expression is worth sharing. You know this now, but the grace period will come to an end and you will unlearn it. Soon the impulses of your body will come to represent the wickedness of your carnality, the cause of your destruction, the symptoms of your sickness.
You will think of that boy and your body will groan, it will swell and tingle and pulse and thrum and ache all just to tell you something true about yourself, all to create a connection, to have contact, to come close, your body will long for closeness but you will not acquiesce, relying instead on your mind and your spirit to stand in. You will forge connection in a head way and in a heart way and you will very nearly go mad trying to disentangle the head and the heart from the body: the holy trinity of you broken apart to satisfy the rules that govern our clothing and conduct and colors and how we connect.
It will cost you so much, it will require so much energy to maintain this partial-you, this damaged you that overburdens his mind and his spirit to compensate for the atrophy of the body, and it will lead you into all kinds of unhealth, loneliness, and despair. Oh, how I want to save you, spare you. To drown you in assurance that your body is not the thing you need to be liberated from. Your body is not the barometer of your wickedness because you have no wickedness, you perfect, small thing. None at all. You are not fallen. You are not a sinner, and you are not in the hands of an angry god.
You are just your own. You belong to you. You are a holy trinity of mind and spirit and body and none is more or less important than the other and they are, in fact, expertly crafted to share memory and wisdom and emotion and when the holy trinity of you is working in unison, baby, that’s what grace feels like. Then you will be able to love who you love, choose the colors that please you, wear the clothes that help you create the scene you want to make and the holy trinity of you—and your grateful body especially—will swell and tingle and pulse and thrum as you express yourself boldly, unapologetically, proudly.
I can’t save you from all that will hurt you, I can’t spare you from the violence the rules will do to your body, but I can still drown you in assurance that your every impulse is the right one. This body, this one speaking to you now, it is no longer the small thing it was, but it came from you, and every day I am learning again what it means to exist in the grace period—to live memory-less, to self-express simply because self-expression is worth sharing, and to let, as that dear poet teaches us, the soft animal of my body love what—and who—it loves.
—Matthew Blake, as heard in episode 043