The Performance | Haven Nasif

Image: Felix Mooneeram

The Performance

I have been enamored lately by the concept of messy, bloody, cathartic, altering the fundamentals of our societal responses to the constant bile-rising of glamorization and the need to perform sexuality, nonchalance, purity, a gold standard picture of a horrid, mangled creature draped in her own characters, choking on forced importance. She screams as everyone captures her slow death on video. Her sisters look on with pity and smugness and a bit of simmering jealousy, as though this will save them from a similar fate; if they escape visibly unscathed they still have not won. These women have become masters of compartmentalisation, as all women must be, slipping into routine numbness to block out the binging and purging on every false escape that appears in sterile media giving us new idols. She is broken down and sobbing hysterically on the floor. It is the greatest performance of her life because she only gets to have one before she is shoved behind biting remarks, cursing that her emotions seem to envelop her rather than cursing that she must carry these burdens at all. She is scratching and clawing at her skin as if to dredge herself out of the euphoric manipulation that is false womanhood. Her sisters are mourning the loss. She dies, finally, not with a guttural scream, but with a deep breath and quiet resignation. Her sisters exchange calm looks before descending upon her corpse with vulturous frenzy, dressing themselves in her memory to be her activist and champion, while she has already been sold and forgotten to make way for the next performance, to be a sacrifice satisfying the screeching ache of defeat we’ve felt since we were girls. Her red lipstick is smeared but in the way that makes her look thoroughly kissed, not the way that lipstick actually smudges, and her mascara is running down her face in her tears like she put them there to drop on cue. She screams and cries and her sisters applaud, her sisters are paralyzed as they fantasize about being in her position. Her perfect curls are held in her hands as she rips them out of her head. We continue to cheer and she lets her lungs fill with her own spit as her moaning is swallowed by the awe of her beauty as she falls apart. We clap and laugh and make knowing eyes at each other. We are so proud of being able to stay afloat. This, unfortunately, does not save us from the same fate. We sit, and feel, until we too are screaming.

Haven Nasif (she/her) is a queer poet native to Boulder, Colorado, currently living in Eugene and studying both English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Oregon. She has had work published in Portland’s Spit Poet Zine and often shares her writing through her Instagram, haven.nasif.

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