What Renée Said


or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love 


Let’s remember the words that started this: beauty, diversity, inheritance, love.

“I don’t do pain.”

Once upon a time I was a bluebird or a fairy or a French peasant girl and I had no body but an engine and my heart was an ember that burned, burned away the body I did not have so that I could have “spark,” so that I could have “special,” so that I could blaze bright through the haze of stage light and through my cocoon of tulle and satin and false lashes and warm the people out there so that they could applaud and say “lovely.” But fire burns until it runs out of fuel, and when I’d run out I’d slouch back to the body I left in the wings aching, unprotected, ugly, a ragged hole in me where that tremendous vitality had been ripped out, had been ripped out by those people out there so that they could applaud and say “lovely” while I ached. How could I love people who took so much from me? How could I love my body and take so much from it?

“I’ll tell you what your body is telling me.”

As much as I bitch about the construct of mind/body dualism, I’ve stopped fighting it. The model may be wrong, but it’s useful*: each is so adept at ignoring the other, so accustomed to wanting what the other does not, that they are often forced into opposition. They cower in fear, or they lash out and fight. My mind thought my body was ugly; my body thought my mind was ugly. And at the time, I think they were both right—beauty cannot live where discord does, after all. Beauty is cooperation and beauty is clarity. Ugly is something that doesn’t want you to see it, that fights you when you try.

“Don’t fight it. Come with my energy.”

It was hard to get my body and me back on speaking terms, but Renée showed us the way. Though the relationship remains rocky, at least we’re talking. We start talking in the studio like old friends getting reacquainted; we step on stage smiling, saying “just like old times” even though everything’s totally different now. It’s amazing how far a little kindness, a little patience, can get you. On the best days I tell my body, “it’s alright, you don’t have to extend the legs so high, you don’t have to jump so big” and it tells me, “but I want to.” My body carries me easily and I care for it easily and together we tell the story. Other days, it’s not as easy: we can’t extend, we can’t jump, we misunderstand, we quarrel. But we forgive, too, and it’s that capacity for forgiveness, that desire for understanding, that enables us to work together. And together we tell the story.

“Stay in your body. Stay in the story. The audience will forgive an off day, technically, but they will never forgive you for not telling the story.”

Once upon a time… This story isn’t really about me, but I’m telling you because it’s kind of about me and it’s also about all of you, too, so please stay with me. We come from different places, but now we’re gathered here and it’s time to share what we brought. I’ll start. I’ll share with you something better than True, better than Real. I’ll share with you something simple and clear and beautiful.

Between lines there is stillness, coolness, space. Space within and without. There is no burning now. Instead the energy is here in the space, here in the story and we need only claim it—the first piece of our inheritance. It’s the electricity of when cocoons and other constructions fall away leaving just the space and the flow of something unencumbered through it, between my humanity and yours. It’s the electricity that only happens because we’re all really here, really here in the story, picking up the bits of ourselves we find and building something beautiful. It’s a partnership, an exchange, an unspoken desire to understand and to be understood. Perhaps it’s the thing that allows us to love.


* “Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful.” –George E.P. Box. Sometimes people who aren’t Renée say good things, too.