Earlier today, I got my sister to go to The Meat Hook with me in Williamsburg so that I could buy a beef tongue. I was surprised when she said yes, considering what a busy student she is. She’s studying fashion at Parsons. She told me about a project she was working on concerning modern style related to the new romantic. She was considering interviewing me for the project, because I tend to dress like a manish lady or something. Today I was wearing a David Bowie printed track jacket, red jeans, red socks, and crocodile loafers. The sole of one of my shoes fell off as we walked into the store.
When we walked in the door, we both smiled at the cured meat smell. So very particular and so very delicious, it is. It reminded me of the way I feel calm when I’m bombarded by the smell of abundant and great cheese. Which reminded me of the cheese shop I went to growing up, owned by a man named Rick. The Ridgewood Cheese Shop, it was called, before it became a subset of a store called “Super Cellars”…
There was hunger involved when I wanted to learn about food most. Self inflicted, wretched, diet-y hunger, like the kind that makes you loose your mind. Of course, though, the hunger piqued my appreciation for the food and its nuances. Which is why I loved visiting Rick. Rick knew a shit ton about cheese. He was a fucking obnoxious prick to those normal bitches who came in for whatever mild brie bullshit they needed for an unoffensive night at book club, but for me, he was a big, generous man willing to let me behind the counter to inspect the gooey, dank cheeses often unappreciated by the upper New Jersey clientele. Of course, Rick could sell it anyway, because he always had some great, crowd-pleasing pairing of cracker, jam, and (insert cheese) or a truffled this or that for fancy motherfuckers. He was a large dude who was seemingly tired of the people, but he did the work for the love of cheese. And I saw him smile when he would tell me about something good.
Once, Rick told me that he would take a particular cheese–now I can’t remember which but I imagine it was point l’eveque brie or traditional French Muenster–and set it on top of his clock/radio while he listened to Jazz, his favorite genre of music. After the radio warmed up from use, it rendered his cheese gooey and submissive for his eating privilege. And I love that about him. He was the id to my ego at the time and influenced some the way I roll in life now. I believed we both hated the world but loved cheese and needed a chance to let life resolve our misgivings with humanity.
I bought some beef tongues at the shop, as well as some bread and pastrami. Sydney and I tried the pastrami once outside the shop. It was so fat-streaked, that I considered letting it warm on the heat of my thigh at home, a la Rick. But it seemed wrong to do or something, all alone. Sydney did the interview outside of someone’s apartment before we got back to the train, asking me about my aesthetic, inspiration, and why I like menswear.
All I could do was say, “what exactly is the new romantic?” “Oh, Boy George? Mom says I look like him.” I talked about how I seem to model parts of myself after the real Pocahontas, who, as I’ve come to learn, is often portrayed as more of a dyke-y Native American lady with some Spanish Inquisition style than a princess canoeing through the wild in a turquoise necklace. And of course, that’s just based on drawings rather than pictures, which did not yet exist. During this interview, I failed to mention my obsession with Peter Pan’s lost boys, but I talked about a lack of conviction on feeling gender-strong. Having spent the first six-ish years of my life imitating male role models, I can’t assert with confidence loving and choosing womanhood. I wanted to be Kocoum long before I wanted to be Pocahontas. Sometimes I wonder why my nanny didn’t tell my mom I was a tiny lesbian or boy or why my mom didn’t think so. And yet I find myself very blasé in the genital changing category.
Strange, how it’s all so related and unrelated. It is so hard to separate what we want from what society expects from us. Like wanting to be skinny but knowing that eating all the cheese is more fun. Or wanting to dress like a boy while simultaneously being a girl who wants to have a boy’s body but also not be a boy. And not turning into Boy George or David Bowie but rather retaining a self. While braising a beef tongue for dinner. This print is an ode to this thing, this being in a skin and thereby having to do something about it, such as talk.