FOUR RANTS FROM 'THE UGLY
by Coleman Hough
"You'll never be an actress. You have a thick waist." This was my father's
prediction in 1985. The year I moved to New York to become an actress.
The year I was 23. Already professionally trained. Already an experienced
waitress. I was ready. Or was I? I had a thick waist.
So, New York, 1985high
up in an office on 42nd Street and 8th avenue, I sat across from a scholarly
looking old man with wire rimmed glasses. He was squirrely. Flat out
bald with liver spots on his head. Bad breath - an ironed white shirt.
A skinny man with bony hands. He seemed so pathetic and harmless. I
thought I was networkingthat
it was all legit since it was connected to THE ACTORS PROJECT, which
was this cult I had recently joined that offered seminars with casting
directors and resume services. head shot advice and job opportunities
were available, so I partook. I had responded to an ad I'd seen on the
PHOTOGRAPHER SEEKS CATALOGUE MODELS.
I called the number and got an interview. Wow. The old man who greeted
me didn't seem like a photographer.
I had imagined a young, hip, long-haired sort of beefy guy with a firm
handshake. "Remove your clothes except for your bra and underwear,"
he said, "and then I'll measure you." Fine. Well he was older than my
father and he was bald so I just felt like it was all fine. I was working
as a typesetter in Queens or as a receptionist for a technical magazine
or as a waitress at The Lone Star Cafe. I wanted out of itwhatever
it was. I saw this as a way. So taking my clothes off did not seem unreasonablehe
didn't say take your clothes off and dancetake
your clothes off and I'll fuck youtake
your clothes off and I'll whip you. He said take your clothes off EXCEPT
for your bra and underwear and I'll MEASURE you. I needed to be measuredto
be sure that there were still dimensions to mestill
some weight. He seemed to concentrate on all the degrees of me. I liked
that. I liked the reverence in his breathhis
soft fluttery toneas
if I made him slightly nervousmade
his palms sweat. I could have picked him up and thrown him around the
room. It would have been that easy. I felt strongin
control. He wrote down everything.
So I'm sitting there, buttoning my blouse in his office on 42nd street
and he's adding up or subtracting. I don't know but he's definitely
doing math and after a long silence he looks up and says"You
are perfectly proportioned. You'll be modeling lingerie and toys."
Wait. Lingerie and toys? I pictured myself in a lacy bra holding up
a doll I destroyed when I was five. The doll had two faces, one on each
side with two kinds of hair. One side was a smiling red head with freckles
and when you flipped it, the other was a frowning blonde with a tear
stitched under her eye. It was one of those clever presents some friend
of my mother's had given to my sister and me to share. My sister had
red hair. We had a room divided by blonde headed dolls and red headed
dolls. This doll, however, disturbed uscaused
fits of rage.
One night after my Mom turned off the lightI
waited until my sister was asleepwaited
until the house was quiet and thenwith
scissors in handI
cut off the tear by the light of the moon. It left a huge hole with
cotton bulging out like little clouds. But I liked her finally. I hugged
her and felt that I could offer her comfort. I flipped her hair over
to my sister's sideall
those freckles. The red head was so well adjustedcarefree,
even. The blonde was complextroubled
at such a young age. She did not need a tear stitched to her cheek.
I looked over at my sleeping sister and then at the scissors in my hand.
I cut off the red hair snip by snip.
"Here's my card. Just check in from time to time and I'll let you know
when there's work." The bald man winked at me. Lingerie and Toys? I
thought about it the whole way home. "You are perfectly proportioned."
But that couldn't be right. I had a thick waist.
"You're a woman now, you'll have to wear this belt," my mother said,
handing things to me out of this bottom cabinet in the bathroom, "and
this." She showed me an enormous white diaper looking thing. That? It
was New Year's Eve. I was making them late for their party. My Dad was
downstairs playing darts with a friend in his tuxedo. My mother's arms
jangled with all her bracelets. I was eleven and already a woman. She
showed me how everything workedthen
it was never spoken of again. So began my experiments. Soon after that
miraculous New Year's Eve, I discovered my clitoris one afternoon while
reading The Whole Earth Catalog. There was a description of a
about how to make a marriage work. I read the word "clitoris"
and I'd never heard that before. I had to look it up in the dictionary.
The definition helped with the location. The Whole Earth Catalog said
that making a circular motion on or around the clitoris was what a woman
loved best. I tried it. Nothing happened. I kept making the circular
motion, listening to my new clock radio, watching the minutes change
shape like the big clicking board at Penn Station. Suddenly, I felt
this wave of circular motions all over my body. I stopped making the
circular motions. I thought my clock had exploded. I thought I had hurt
myself. I thought I had been electrocuted. My heart was pounding. I
It's just that
he crushes it
with the heel of his left hand
presses down hard
until the veins in his arms write out
like music and maps to places
I've been and the paper like skin reveals flesh
soft like shoulders and broken
under a weight without words
I actually wrote this poem about him, gave it to him, signed it - this
chef that I lusted after briefly. I was a waitress and would go in early
to watch him crush garlic. He had that sideways glance of the bad boy,
that grin and stare I always took as a signa
challenge that I willfully wrapped my thighs around. He smelled like
garlic. His pores moaned with it. After work one night, dancinghe
and I, garlic clouds around us. His hands on my ass, that pulse, those
lights, I lean back and he lets me swoon, catches me in the small of
my back. It is there that I most a woman, that curve, no shame, a muscular
well fully formed. His fingers bracing me for what's to come, pressing
me into himhip
to hip. My heart opening under heata
back bend of pleasure. I feel weightless, abandon to his strength holding
me up as I take in the world upside down. He doesn't drop me. The excitement
is unbearable. We drive to his house. His roommates are asleep. He carries
me upstairs like a secret prize. Like I was something he'd found that
he'd always wanted, like I was something he had just ironed that he
wanted to wear, like he had prepared a feast and I was it. Blurry fractures
of time. It's night, I'm here, great. We wrestle, we roll, we spin,
we breathe hard.
He has twin beds. He undresses me on one. I undress him. We undress.
Our passion slows to a silence, to a stillness. "What are you thinking?,"
I finally ask. Maybe it's a childhood trauma, maybe we'd been making
too much noise, maybe I remind him suddenly of his mother. What? "I'm
thinking." he says it slowly, deliberately, branding each word into
my skin, my heart. "I'm thinking that I want to shave all the hair off
your body." I stop breathing. An image of him doing this comes to mind.
He is kneeling over me with a pink razor, raking it across the landscape
of my body, nicking me to death until I am smooth enough to fuck. I
want to scream, demand that he drive me home even at this hour, grab
a fistful of his chest hair and pull him around the room, wake up his
roommates and yell FIRE FIRE. But I don't. I remember the other twin
bed - grope for it in the dark and in the silence, curl up and find
"Look, you're just not my type. I like petite brunettes." Checkmate.
What could I say? Sam and I were in a bar. He had to speak loudly, slowlyjust
in case I missed a word. It was Valentine's Daynight.
I thought the relationship was going along nicely. We had started seeing
each other the night he discovered me taking a bath at a cast party.
I went through this bathing compulsion. At parties. I just slipped away
from the crowd, returning flushedsmelling
of lilac, tangerine, lily of the valleywhatever
was lying around. It depended on the tub. I didn't bathe at all partiesjust
some. Diane Macy had a deep tub under a skylight. I always bathed at
her parties. No one ever knew. But the night I started dating Sam was
the night I wanted to get caught. I left the door unlocked. He just
walked on in. There I was, in the bathall
the candles litthe
ones from our play for the cathedral sceneSam
another person and anotheruntil
the whole party was eventually in the bathroom. Sam handed me a towel
when it got too crowded and I emerged from the bath. It was a great
beginning. Didn't he realize straight away that I was a grandé blonde
or was it the candles? He repeated himself as if I hadn't heard him.
The music was loud. This time he leaned in close. "I said, you're not
my type. I like petite brunettes." I nodded and smiledwondered
if he'd say it again.
poetry has appeared in Southern Poetry Review, The Asheville
Review, The Louisville Review and Poetry Motel. Her
plays Angel and Mr. Charm, Alphabet Soup, and At Night
were produced in Los Angeles at Theatre of N.O.T.E. She has performed
her monologues, The Ugly Sister, Natural Disaster, and She's
No Expert at Dixon Place
in New York City.