I Want To Be a Woman Not a Lady

by: Melissa Hunter Gurney ((Header art by the incredibly talented Fernando Vicente Vanitas.))

A meditation about what life would be like if the “flow” coursed through your veins. If those around you said “yes” to your dreams. If you stopped living everyday as if sameness was normal…

A Woman

The wall I can see from my bed consists of six pictures. There is a dog on a balcony in Argentina, a rooster running in Ecuador, a peacock from Colombia, a Cuban woman smiling and holding her hands together in prayer while her husband admires her happiness in silence, a mermaid, and a Frida – always a Frida.

Two days ago one of my favorite writers mentioned Oshun, the African Goddess of love and sweet waters. “She lives in the rivers,” he said. Her sister Yemaya lives in the painting of my mermaid. I speak to her with my eyes and see her with my womb. In reality she is the ocean, the mother and the warrior. Oshun is a seductress of sorts soaked in Amber, draped in gold and coral – my sex. People cannot resist her. There is a space in between these two sisters where ladies live. It is called fear. Fear of too much sex, too much love, too much mothering, too much water, too much, too much, too much. So they dull their woman parts and put them into pictures, perfumes and colors. Drape themselves in the incantation of the insides, live between the river and the ocean – somewhere on land where you can’t feel the flow. I want to be a woman not a lady.

I wonder what I could do if the flow was in me. If the people around me said yes to my dreams. If I stopped living everyday as if sameness was normal. It’s hard to go it alone though – a musician said that once and I listened. If there are two one can live in same while the other grows her mane and then they can switch ending each day with more hair and more power. But, when you tell them it can work this way they tell you you’re a temptress living in a field of flowers forgetting about the cement when you tell them you woke up knowing it was possible they laugh and tell you a story to bring you back to their reality. They take Oshun and Yemaya with them. They take the woman and make you a lady.

So, I sit staring at my pictures, talking to the animals, the goddesses and the mermaids filling the empty oils with my flow knowing there will be enough woman for us all when we decide to break free but until then I will write a poem. It goes like this:

I put her in my worldview and when she became a citizen I realized I didn’t want to be one anymore.

I looked to my left, to my right and it came to me – there are no citizens – only patrons.

That’s when I left.

Buy attention. Buy likes. Buy perception and leave the authenticity in the air breathing a nugget too far from the ground.

Sentient beings? No. There’s nothing sentient about faux fur or whale sperm in your anti-wrinkle cream.

Nothing sentient about half smoked cigarettes wrapped in lipstick like prosciutto tucked around a melon. Leave out the sweet and savory and all you see is the cured leg and pesticides.

Nothing sentient about a home without a willow – standing on one leg hoping you’ll grow leaves.

Nothing sentient about sixty-five dollar cover up. The kind that’s safe from toxins. Let the poor people die.

Nothing sentient about telling her you will have her in her office while the teenagers she teaches about societal constructs sit outside.

Nothing sentient about blaming an animal activist for not caring enough about the people who are dying – everyone needs to act somewhere – it’s all fucked.

Nothing sentient about not working because you don’t fit into the system or working because you’ve been trained to – they are both disturbing.

Nothing sentient about being pushed out or being pushed in – gentrification is unleashed while our dogs are tied tight.

You can move into a neighborhood and get the people who’ve been there all their lives kicked out because their music is too loud or their skin is too scary or their people make you uncomfortable when they sit on the stoop but you can’t walk a dog in a park without a leash?

You can smoke a cigarette and throw it to the curb but you gotta pick up the shit so you stand over your little cocker-poodle, or whatever inhumane mix they made to woo you, and you watch her squat bending down to remove the waste when she’s done.

Leashes for holding, plastic bags for cleaning, cigarettes for smoking, makeup for hiding, trees for cutting, pig legs for eating, pesticides for killing, price tags for raising.

Oh yeah and don’t forget alcohol for escaping.

Go to work another day so you can pay for it. Money for paying, holding, cleaning, cutting, eating, killing, raising, escaping.

Go to bed so you can do it again and if you can’t sleep because the music next door is too loud call the landlords so they can heighten the price and make it quiet, silence your fear into dreamless slumber.

Nothing sentient about being fearful – so close your eyes love and it will all go away.

When I’m done I look over at the mermaids, the goddesses, the peacocks, the oceans, the rivers, the animals and I tell them.

I want to be fearless not fearful

I want to be alive with sex

I want to be a mother to more than a child

I want to be a warrior for myself and others

I want to be hair from head to toe – draped in power

I want to be fields of flowers not cement

I want to be rivers, oceans, lakes and quarries

I want to be a woman not a lady

And then I go to sleep hoping my pictures will follow me there.


Melissa Hunter Gurney is a Brooklyn based independent writer as well as the founder of GAMBA Magazine and GAMBA Z’s Artist Residency. She is connected to the artist life as seen throughout South America and writes for La Gente Descalza (The Barefoot People). Her work can be seen in various independent magazines including – The Opiate, Those That This and Post (Blank). 

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