Plaisance means “Pleasure” (Martha & Malvin Valmont in Plaisance, LA circa 1950)

Martha & Malvin Valmont (Plaisance, LA circa 1950)

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Plaisance is French for “Pleasure”, and it has been my pleasure lately, surveying a map of my maternal great grandparents’ home of St. Landry Parish, the birthplace of Zydeco, where I spent a lot of summers and holidays. Since childhood, I’ve had a fascination with names of events, places, and roads there, like Yambilee, Tony Chachere’s Creole Foods, and Westwego…so maybe it’s time to write an entire series of stories, prose, and poems based on five senses of memories from childhood and early adulthood in Louisiana.

Sometimes I write under the pseudonym Renée Valmont, so I may use the name for the potential creative writing project. The working title: Mon Plaisance/My Pleasure.

From The Non-Adventures of Invisible Girl: The Power of Invisibility

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“I’m gonna tell you a secret about this culture: Women have all the power.”

So began the words of wisdom my ex-friend with benefits bestowed upon me to cut off benefits, or how he failed to see what was really right in front of him for years: a powerful kindred spirit in female form.

He talks about feminism and chauvinism, culture and the matrix, thinking he’s above it all, but as I fly above our bodies, in the ether above the chair he uses to cushion the blow of words, then hovering in the air an hour later, above the parking lot where I see him as a mere mortal disguised as a super man.  Once again, this man tells me what he thinks I am and what he thinks I am not, and calls it “truth”.  I know he’s stuck in the same world he talks about, but refuses to rise above the vision stuck in his head that isn’t really seeing me.

Then I hear Black Flag’s “Rise Above” playing.  (He can’t hear it, of course, because he doesn’t have the power of super hearing.)

Maybe giving him way too much time to think alone about not trying to super fuck me anymore is one of the side effects of to my power of invisibility.  I definitely held back a little, all those times, not to overwhelm him.  And Invisible Girls have things to do when boys who thinks they’re super men and that she’s just a girl start telling her everything he thinks she’s not…

When a boy like him doesn’t think a girl like me is visible, let alone extraordinary, an Invisible Girl like me doesn’t point out what makes her extraordinary.  That would be showing off, being irresponsible with my super power. We all know what the uncle said to his nephew about responsibility in that one superhero movie.

I know it’s superhero cliche, but I decided to keep my cloak on for a while longer with him, to continue wearing the burden of not being detectable as his soul mate for fear of losing my secret identity.  (Invisible ladies, we all know sometimes it takes years for us to reveal our awesome selves, and not just to anyone.)

I showed him and told him I loved him while wearing the cloak, but he wasn’t looking, or listening.  He says he’s a three-dimensional man, and the written word is a two-dimensional wall. I still loved him, even though he is wrong about words, and the shapes they make, sometimes as weapons, sometimes as living things, and occasionally, (or some critics would claim, rarely), words take an immortal shape.  Those three words I spoke are never going to die, but he didn’t accept them as a living, breathing, three-dimensional being.  To him, I was just another girl, invisible–not the Invisible Girl.

Those few words of love perished quickly in his mind, looking at just another girl, not seeing the one… I let the remaining words I wrote and spoke fall flat, because why reveal your secret identity, why show off to someone who will never really see you as “the one”?  (My words, not his, but he never took the hint.)

I blame watching too much TV, and not enough seeing the reality of me being there, in that chair and in that parking lot, in those moments.  I was really there, and I wasn’t afraid of falling in love anymore, because now I had the power to fly…and the power to choose, to be visible again.

Knowing he was wrong about my particular power gave me strength, letting him think he was right, gave me strength.  He didn’t know me or that every girl and woman is different, we have different powers and super powers.  Because he thinks he has seen everything and every girl he needs to see, before he sees “the girl” (his words, not mine), but he never really cared to see the woman in me.

But I can’t blame him entirely for using me and not seeing me, the woman, because I was busy being Invisible Girl.  What I thought was my super power became a weakness. Being invisible means feeling invincible, and letting the person who doesn’t really see you also doesn’t let the person see that you can be hurt.

I won’t waste my super powers trying to invisibly save his life anymore, pretending it doesn’t hurt.  Even superheroes, superheroines, or whatever the gender binary powers that be choose to call us, feel pain. We may act like super humans, but take away the super…

But I won’t bore you anymore with this chapter.  I’m more eager to read another super woman’s invisible story, disguised as prose.

In the meanwhile, I will begin to write my next chapter, all about my fearless non-adventure of being a visible woman to the meme free man, willing and able to visibly stare into my powerful, 3-D lens,  to see the quintessential dimension.  We’ll live there together, someday.

© 2013 by Danna Williams, a.k.a. DIY Danna

Lost & Found Part 1: “What The Training Bra Taught Me” by Renée Valmont

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I thought another story was lost from the last move and a P.C. crash, but luckily found a personal treasure on gmail – a lot of poems and a few stories that are being shaped for publication today. The following short, short story may never see print but I have a strong attachment to it. Maybe because it’s a (slightly) fictionalized account about a transitional time in my childhood, and how one adult seemed to understand what I was going through without giving me a hug and telling me it was going to be OK when maybe it wasn’t. Her love was tough, but I always felt loved, and it taught me that being tough doesn’t make me any less a woman. I miss her everyday, and this month marks five years without her in my day to day life, encouraging me to read and learn more, to write more, and to give more to the great-grandchildren who sometimes remind me of her in little ways.

Why am I suddenly teary eyed? The next introduction won’t be so sentimental and mushy. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

What The Training Bra Taught Me by Renée Valmont

Like all adolescent girls at the threshold of womanhood, I have to buy a training bra.

I don’t understand why it’s called a training bra. Riding down the Eastex Freeway to Parkdale Mall in my grandmother’s blue ’68 Chevy Impala I ask the question that is burning a hole in my brain all Saturday morning: “Why do they call it a training bra, Grandma?”

“It’s called a training bra so your breasts won’t grow wild,” my sister Marley jokes.

Grandma actually agrees with her.

I’m 11-years-old going to the 6th grade soon, and Marley is five years older and her boobs are gianormous. (Is that even a word?) Anyway, she’s popular and trendy, and because she goes to Beaumont Senior High School and gets to wear lipstick. I’m a little jealous, so Mama buys me Bonne Belle Lipsmackers for my birthday. They come in all kinds of flavors, like strawberry, grape, watermelon… And as we ride in the air condition-less, vinyl upholstered back seat, I’m piling delicious artificially flavored grape lipgloss on my lips. Yummy…

We’re finally at Parkdale Mall, and I’m still not convinced I need a training bra. I’d rather go to the Goldmine Arcade at the mall than shop for undergarments, but Marley has to get some back-to-school clothes, and Grandma insists that I’m getting too big not to wear a bra.

And you don’t argue with Grandma. She’s one tough old broad. When my friends call for me and she answers the door or the phone, they’re either scared witless of the doll-like Indian woman holding a Winston cigarette in one hand and screen door handle with the other; or her hoarse, mannish voice that my friends always assume belongs to my grandpa, Papa. But Papa has a sweet tenor’s voice. My sister and I always laugh when Grandma sings “Happy Birthday” to one of us – the one time of the year she will dare sing out loud.

But we don’t laugh when Grandma tells us we’re going to J.C. Penney to buy clothes – and my first bra.

For any 11-year-old girl on the threshold of womanhood, J.C. Penney’s Lingerie department is a frightening alien experience. But I survive it somehow, with Grandma holding my hand. OK – she isn’t literally holding my hand. We aren’t the touchy-feely kinda folks. But she asks me, nicely, to follow her to the land of bras. While my sister is free to browse the Junior/Miss department, Grandma embarrasses me by asking a saleslady for help in Lingerie. I am already freaked out by the pale mannequins whose lower limbs are missing. Their upper torsos are wrapped with natural and synthetic fibers designed to bind their fake plaster breasts. Freaky.

My mother and grandmother are petite women. But Grandma has a big bosom, unlike Mama who balloons to a B-cup after the birth of two kids. Grandma is always in search for the perfect support bra, and Playtex 18-hour is her brand of choice these days. So while picking out something for herself, she makes me try on different training bras. One of them has those cute, pink flower accents. Then you have your regular polyfill, criss-cross action, which is perfect for a practical girl like me. What am I going to do with little flower accents, anyway?

It seems like we have spent forever in that department, and I ask her if we can buy the plain bra that doesn’t seem so… unnecessary.

Grandma insists we buy both bras. It’s her J.C. Penney card, so I don’t argue.

I forget to mention that when I look in the dressing room’s three-way mirror trying on both bras again to make sure they fit, I almost feel like a woman. I also dread going to the gym locker room to change on my first day at Beaumont Junior High.

So going to the mall and buying bras for the first time with your grandmother can be almost as cool as playing Frogger at the arcade. OK – not really. But to reward me for almost reaching womanhood, Grandma takes me to Waldenbooks and buys me a Judy Blume book I hadn’t read yet – It’s Not The End of The World.

~For M.V.W. (February 13, 1913 – September 27, 2003) with eternal gratitude.

© 2006 Renée Valmont/Danna Williams