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Bearded lady…

August 1, 2010

The movement says:

I am swimming away from you,

hurry up and follow me!!!

At the same time,

the fish swims neither fast nor far,

and turns back immediately towards the female,

who is following but timidly and shyly in his wake…

In this way the female is enticed under the bubble nest,

and now follows the wonderful love-play which resembles,

in delicate grace,

a minuet,

but in general style the trance of a Balinese temple dancer…

In this love dance,

by age-old law,

the male must always exhibit his magnificent broadside to his partner,

but the female must remain constantly at right angles to him…

The male must never obtain so much as a glimpse of her flanks,

otherwise he will immediately become angry and unchivalrous;

for standing broadside means,

in these fishes as in many others,

aggressive masculinity and elicits instantaneously in every male,

a complete change of mood…

— in King Solomon’s Ring by Konrad Z. Lorenz

When I was a little girl I was sure that the equator was a belt that one could see if one got close enough to it…

A belt like a lap pool of crystal blue water in which you could swim your way clear around the planet…

When I was twenty-two I was determined to prove my hypothesis and travelled as close as I could,

to find and see this belt…

My re-search took me to the town of Bukittinggi…

I stayed there for ten days in the home of a newly married couple…

The husband always wondered why I didn’t go out drinking in the evening,

with the other back-packers…

He offered to escort me there and back for safety,

if that was the issue…

I told him that I wasn’t interested…

I’d already been there and done that,

and I’d left home for the intents and purposes of more unusual adventure…

So he took matters into his own hands and introduced me to a local man in town who took travelers along on traditional Minangkabau male sporting rituals…

At first the local man told me that I couldn’t come along,

because I was a woman,

and it just wasn’t done…

I gently insisted he find a way,

because although the idea of it scared the living daylights out of me,

I wanted that notch of wild boar hunting,

on my belt…

He found a way by bringing along the Dutch wife of one of his hunting buddies…

She told me that as a converted muslim woman she would never have had this experience if I hadn’t been there…

I was given the lead of the head dog,

and found the thrill of the hunt in those palm plantations,

a step back in time…

In that same week I met a young muslim woman at a martabak stand…

She invited me to her village to meet her mother…

After our visit together I asked her if she wanted to go to a bull fight with me…

She said,

Only men get to do that…

I said,

Then we’re going for sure…

On our way back to town,

down that high hill,

with all of those Minangkabau men,

she said to me,

I’ve never done this before…

And I wouldn’t have been able to without you…

Thank you for asking me…

It was so much fun…

On my way overland to the east coast of Sumatra,

where I was to catch a boat to Singapore,

I stayed in a guest house in Pekanbaru…

Sade and Pink Floyd were in steady play on my Walkman…

Over dinner I got to talking with two encyclopedia salesmen from Java…

They invited me to an outdoor theatre to see a movie…

They seemed harmless enough,

and I’d survived a wild boar hunt,

so seeing as the cards were in my favour,

I accepted the invitation…

There are only a few things more uncomfortable than sitting in a theatre full of muslim men,

as a young western woman,

watching a Hollywood B-movie…

I had to tell the salesmen that woman in my country aren’t anything like what they saw on that screen…

But times have changed a lot since the 1980’s…

Sexually aggressive women are now de rigueur in mainstream culture,

Setting a mean standard,

in the name of a liberation that is way off the scales…

You and I have memories longer than the road which stretches out of here...

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