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February 6, 2011 / Julia

Grabbers

It’s a grabbers vs. flappers warzone.

On the one side are the flappers. We wave and twist our hands in front of our faces or slap them against our chests. Our heads punctuate our moods and the music against the wall. Our knees don’t bend as we walk on our toes, our fingers pick at cuticles or scratch patterns against our forearms and cheeks, and we’d rather watch spinning pinwheels than drown in another person’s eyes.

(Our joy is own own, and we communicate it differently, perhaps holding privately onto it, or pouring it out into another person. But soon we learn from the grabbers that our joy should be our shame, our movements not our own, and so we withdraw.)

What else is there to do when you are surrounded by grabbing hands but shrink in on yourself?

The grabbers don’t believe that we can be happy or find meaning unless we are exactly like them—and that’s really the goal, being just like everyone else, and so there is not even a second of hesitation in their eyes when they slap our hands down onto the table with a shriek of “quiet hands”.

The hands are everywhere.

They’re at our chins. “Look at me, with a face pressed in so close to yours that you count the pores until they force your gazes to meet. They grab our hands, “don’t do that, people will think you’re retarded.They smack away picking fingers, because our foreheads must be pristine and easy-to-look-at for them. You turn away, pull away, try to put some distance in so you can breath, and they grab your hands, your hips, your shoulders and twist you back. You bounce your leg—surely you are allowed this?—and they press a hand to your knee, stilling you. Everyone taps their pencil, but when you start their hand closes over yours and won’t let go.

Please let me go!

But protesting just means you need to be grabbed more often, with harder and more insistent hands, until you realize that the way you move is fundamentally wrong, as wrong and deficient and disturbing and dangerous as you are, and if you want to be counted as a “you” at all you must let them grab you until you can stop your self. The most basic human thing is just existing in space, and you quickly realize that you do even this wrong. Is it that you take up too much space, or just that you do it too differently, moving in an entirely alien way and triggering some sort of dormant xenophobia?

In the end it just comes down to you are wrong, and for that you must be punished. It simplifies to your body is not your own, but it is mine. And you learn that a relationship, if you can call it that, always has two roles, a flapper and a grabber, and you will always be grabbed, and never be permitted to grab back.

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2 Comments

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  1. Zoe / Feb 6 2011 10:50 pm

    I have read this lots of times and I really really like it because, yes, life is like that. And the thing that I might want to do with my life right now is to make life not like that.

  2. cynkingfeeling / Oct 12 2012 5:29 pm

    As I read, I thought, “This is horrible. Why would one person do this to another?” Then I had to stop and ask myself, “Are you absolutely certain you haven’t done this yourself?”
    Thank you for helping me remember to think twice before stopping my son from a gesture or movement that is not hurting anyone. I don’t want to be a grabber.

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