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What Are Big Girls Made Of?

Written by: Marge Piercy | Biography
 | Quotes (4) |
 The construction of a woman:
a woman is not made of flesh 
of bone and sinew 
belly and breasts, elbows and liver and toe. 
She is manufactured like a sports sedan. 
She is retooled, refitted and redesigned 
every decade. 
Cecile had been seduction itself in college. 
She wriggled through bars like a satin eel, 
her hips and ass promising, her mouth pursed 
in the dark red lipstick of desire. 

She visited in '68 still wearing skirts 
tight to the knees, dark red lipstick, 
while I danced through Manhattan in mini skirt, 
lipstick pale as apricot milk, 
hair loose as a horse's mane. Oh dear, 
I thought in my superiority of the moment, 
whatever has happened to poor Cecile? 
She was out of fashion, out of the game, 
disqualified, disdained, dis- 
membered from the club of desire. 

Look at pictures in French fashion 
magazines of the 18th century: 
century of the ultimate lady 
fantasy wrought of silk and corseting. 
Paniers bring her hips out three feet 
each way, while the waist is pinched 
and the belly flattened under wood. 
The breasts are stuffed up and out 
offered like apples in a bowl. 
The tiny foot is encased in a slipper 
never meant for walking. 
On top is a grandiose headache: 
hair like a museum piece, daily 
ornamented with ribbons, vases, 
grottoes, mountains, frigates in full 
sail, balloons, baboons, the fancy 
of a hairdresser turned loose. 
The hats were rococo wedding cakes 
that would dim the Las Vegas strip. 
Here is a woman forced into shape 
rigid exoskeleton torturing flesh: 
a woman made of pain. 

How superior we are now: see the modern woman 
thin as a blade of scissors. 
She runs on a treadmill every morning, 
fits herself into machines of weights 
and pulleys to heave and grunt, 
an image in her mind she can never 
approximate, a body of rosy 
glass that never wrinkles, 
never grows, never fades. She 
sits at the table closing her eyes to food 
hungry, always hungry: 
a woman made of pain. 

A cat or dog approaches another, 
they sniff noses. They sniff asses. 
They bristle or lick. They fall 
in love as often as we do, 
as passionately. But they fall 
in love or lust with furry flesh, 
not hoop skirts or push up bras 
rib removal or liposuction. 
It is not for male or female dogs 
that poodles are clipped 
to topiary hedges. 

If only we could like each other raw. 
If only we could love ourselves 
like healthy babies burbling in our arms. 
If only we were not programmed and reprogrammed 
to need what is sold us. 
Why should we want to live inside ads? 
Why should we want to scourge our softness 
to straight lines like a Mondrian painting? 
Why should we punish each other with scorn 
as if to have a large ass
were worse than being greedy or mean?

When will women not be compelled
to view their bodies as science projects,
gardens to be weeded,
dogs to be trained?
When will a woman cease
to be made of pain?



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