Corona Diaries: Does my sweat make flowers bloom?

Image © Gloria Stay 2020

by Gloria Stay September 24, 2020

I’m quite a lady, or as my friend Uhlàlà would say: a chochotte. I remember asking her what it meant and what I could gather from her explanation was that it’s a term used to bring endearing ridicule to someone who is sophisticated but in a slightly strenuous way, someone who is particular about things and also a bit boujee and extra at times in quite an interesting or maybe even intriguing manner. Uhlàlà said, it’s especially funny calling me a ‘chochotte’ because people wouldn’t necessarily expect me to be one. I’m not really sure what she wanted to insinuate at the time.

Looking back at it, I did this thing we so often do: Reinterpret our memories and making sense of things of the past through the lens of now. So, I speculate that Uhlàlà was and continues to be so amused calling me a ‘chochotte’ because of my lumberjacky henchness and also because I’m a big bit gay. (For the record: I’m not lumberjacky, but I am hench.) Especially, the latter assumption is at least a little problematic, certainly disappointing. But as I can be quite particular about things, I went with it. However, googling ‘chochotte’ now, 10 years later, gives me the impression that it’s also used as a homophobic slur, an insult that seems to be reserved for gay men; and I can’t help but feel annoyance creeping up my spine thinking that gay men are bogarting such a chic-sounding insult leaving queer womyn with the less than classy crap. I stopped myself going down that rabbit hole since we probably shouldn’t battle about who gets the finest insults.

Anyways, I want ‘chochotte’ to be something different than antonymic praise. What I initially thought a chochotte would be like was so very poignantly captured by Patricia Highsmith (aka Claire Morgan) in The Price of Salt. And oh boi, who wouldn’t want to spend some quality time with the perspicacious and pulchritudinous Carol, who miraculously metamorphosed into Cate Blanchett for the many lezzers in this world. Yes, I am saying I wouldn’t mind a whiskey and a whisper with Cate Blanchett. So, whilst my friend Uhlàlà seemed to have chosen to call me ‘chochotte’ because of its paradoxical rapport to my otherwise ‘un-chochotte’ persona, I want to feel flattered by the idea of being perceived a chochotte in the sense of having a resemblance to Carol’s or Cate’s essence. There is some supporting evidence that this idea is not so far-fetched: I was once mistaken for Greta Garbo by a homeless person, and Greta totally carried the aura of a chochotte.

Maybe I should write Uhlàlà an email asking again about the context of me becoming a chochotte; just what a good critical sociologist should do. Since I now know that it can be used in a derogatory way, I think I would ask her if we could put it on its head, so it could be understood in a ‘Aren’t we having a gay old time?’-kind of way, like it was introduced to the English language in the 12th century and used for quite some time longer.

I personally also like the expression “What a gay day we’re having.” I think it really carries a similar sentiment like the previous rhetorical question. I really do love saying it because first of all, all my days are gay, like soooo much, but also I’m interested in the concept of re-appropriating language and artefacts, and questioning how power imbues us, others, objects and words. So, maybe I should also talk some more about this concept, about reclaiming ‘chochotte’ in this email to my friend. Maybe I should ask her if she thought it a good idea to make ‘feeling so chochotte today’ a thing. I do hope so and even if she doesn’t agree I want to make ‘feeling so chochotte today’ an institution. And I want it to radiate sophistication; the kind of sophistication that comes to mind when thinking of Marlene Dietrich in the legendary photograph picturing her strolling down a train platform in Paris in suit and tie like she fucking owns the place, defying the threats of the police to arrest her if she wore trousers on French soil. Marlene Dietrich wasn’t arrested. And not only made that suit for a dapper outfit, but much more so did this suit become an artefact of insurgence. I want ‘chochotte’ to be this suit.

The only thing I actually wanted to say with all of the above is that I can be quite idiosyncratic about things. One thing I’m meticulous about is my outfit when I’m going for a run. I have a distinct clothing routine for this. I’m always wearing several layers. Long leggings, long shirt, topped with a sleeveless hoodie. Usually all black. I don’t like anything dangling off my body. I guess it’s good then that I don’t have a penis or pedunculated warts. So, I usually tuck my hoodie’s ribbon inside. I also don’t run with music because the swinging of headphone cables makes me furious and I don’t trust wireless headphones. I also just enjoy soaking in the atmosphere of an early morning run listening to the few birds left in the polluted urban environment. There is also a pair of neon gloves, because neon keeps you warm and a flashy orangey pink hat. The hat got two, possibly three functions: (1) it stops the wind coming into my ears, which I find really annoying, (2) it keeps my chin-length wavy hair in order because I also don’t like this bouncing around when I’m running, and (3) I think it amuses other people as it looks a bit like a swimming cap and that just makes everyone look a bit silly.

After I finish my run, I’m usually quite sweaty and my otherwise wavy hair is now just peeking through from under my hat resembling dark brown dripping icicles. (When my hair is not wet it’s just brown.) As I don’t like dangling things I’m usually quite annoyed when my hair gets like that and drips all over the pavement in the garden where I would do a couple of sets of push ups after my morning run thinking I can impress the neighbours with my good form (told you I’m hench). And I find it especially annoying when my drops of sweat are flying around when skipping, which I believe is equally impressive for my neighbours to watch. As I was recently skipping away, I watched one drop of sweat landing in one of the plant pots that houses my new experiment of how to measure time during a worldwide pandemic.

Seeing that time no longer follows the quotidian rhythm, I decided to measure time by watching wizen bulbs grow into glowing flowers. Romantic, I know. I specifically chose iris bulbs, because when an iris blossoms it looks like a vulva in bloom. I like that. And as my chochotte sweat hit the soil, I wondered if it has the power to catapult my irises into bloom. I imagined how the drop of me would soak into the ground and would meander its way to the bulb and its tiny roots that look like lover’s curls, how it makes a spurt of magic erupt from the plant’s heart materializing in magnificent vulva bloomage. I’m basically pondering over the idea if my juices can bend time, transform it, wind it up, slow it down. And it dawns to me that this sweat-iris-vulva analogy is perfectly suitable to demonstrate Albert Einstein’s concept of time dilation in his theory of relativity. I envision myself making a video of me skipping in the garden, sweat flying and hope that I know someone who could photoshop Einstein’s face on my drops of sweat. I’m sure it would be appreciated.

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