Category Archives: Body

On Becoming Someone Else


It’s complicated.

Since the day I  started keeping records, my primordial thoughts were about a Jeff. Jeff, et al. Jeff in all his incarnations. The first diary I ever kept began,

I like Jeff. Jeff is in my class.

And then a quick nod to my coordinates in space:

Today is Friday.

Once I even cut a life-sized boy out of a roll of paper and walked around the neighborhood with it, until the real boys who lived down the street saw what I was doing and laughed me back into the house. That’s the thing about boys. Boys weren’t weird. They were practical. They weren’t dumbed down by a love of plastic dolls, ABBA ballads, or a chronic need to tuck blankets around everything until it was nice and cozy. And they sure as shit didn’t walk the block with a paper girl.

Maybe that’s why I got crushes on the mischievous Jeffs of the world, the troublemakers who got sent to the principal’s office, the ones too poor even to be cool. They operated outside the system that had me trapped; they had a nihilist sort of courage to do wrong and the balls to pretend they didn’t give a shit. They didn’t need to be cozy. They probably didn’t even use blankets.

My penchant for Jeffs became a chronic condition in adulthood. They were the types who didn’t care about much beyond their own dicks (a fact they’d never admit). They’d say instead, baby don’t get all deep n shit.  Their aggrandized masculinity contained something frightening and foreign that I wanted to own. I wanted to study their skill set and their physical style, I wanted to be on the winning side of that roughness and intimidation. I longed to absorb their mannerisms, chemically react to their smell and plug my face into their naked bodies. My instincts told me that the only way a girl like me could ever stake a permanent flag on Mt. Man, was by fucking it.

IMG_2204 (1)

Cross-crawling. It’s like Parkour                   for lonely people.

really lonely people.


The only problem was that I am in fact, secretly, quintessentially, regrettably deep n shit. I wanted to feel whole, and a relationship based solely on sex left me in roadkill condition. So, at the inevitable break-up, the part of me that had bloomed now receded painfully into hyper sleep. It was the maleness I grieved most– even though it had ignored me and slipped the beloved D to someone else –  I mourned it. I’d felt so alive! And now look at me, half dead. Forgotten. Staring down the void. Wait. I know how to fix this! Let’s find another one.

This is how I got hooked on men.


But don’t take my word for it. Take Edie’s.

Writing Crash Bang Burn was about embracing this alleged half-dead side. Instead of crashing, banging and burning, I made my characters do it – over and over. Poor things. But it was a way of taking my demons for a walk without letting them off the leash. The goal was neither desecration nor worship –  I just wanted to scratch the itch without tearing my skin off for a change.  I wanted to get one teensy step removed from the rejection and grief that seemed, for me, to be the predicable and perpetual female experience. Instead of it being my cross to bear, it was now, quite literally, Braylee and Edie’s.

But when I was done writing the book, I was by no means done being the puppetmaster. I had just begun. I was compelled to step into their diametrically opposed shoes and gather witnesses for the revival.  I needed cameras because hey, not everyone is a reader. Edie and Braylee would be easy to act out. After all, Edie was a caricature of who I wished I wasn’t and Braylee is kinda who I wished I was.

But Cross. Cross was a different story.


Hell, I’d fuck me/him/it

Cross wasn’t just any guy. He was every guy. He was an amalgamation of all I loved and hated about men, about the south, about sex. He was the street drug I could never get enough of, even as I bled out. How was I going to animate him? I figured I should find some supermale actor to play him. But no, that wouldn’t do. They might get it wrong. Plus I didn’t need real; I’d had enough real to last a decade. I needed control. I needed a laugh. And anyway, who better to nail Cross than the one who’d been nailed the hardest?

What would I wear, I asked myself, if I were a dude?  And so began the experience called “trying on men’s clothes.”

I wiped off all my makeup and strapped on a rubber dick. I found some boxer briefs, buckled on a pair of men’s pants and took a few paces across the room.

The first thing I’d like to note is, wearing a dick is very distracting. Your sex is literally wagging around like a goddamn panhandler. It wants to proposition everything you’re looking at, even the wall or the door jamb. Dick informs your every step. Dick makes you sit and walk different.  You can’t just put it out of your mind. Dick is always….right…there. It gently carjacks your senses. Or Car-jeffs.


It’s really hard to stop touching it

Next I put on men’s boots, pinned on some foam superman muscles and wrapped an ace bandage around my tits. I cocked my jaw, put on a ball cap, checked the mirror – and somewhere in that series of steps, I disappeared.  The same way you might disappear into a hot bath or the driver’s seat of a Ferrari.  I wouldn’t call it transcendent. But it’s the kind of ahhhh that put my yearnings at ease. I felt my whole center of gravity shift. I swaggered. I swooned. Look at me, I thought. Holy shit. Finally, instead of trying to crawl under a man’s skin, I was actually in it.  Behold, my fix was here before me, staring back in the mirror, awaiting orders. But this time there would be no tears upon extraction. The circuit was contained and closed. I could peel him on, skewer him, adore him, and then pack him up in the closet as needed.

I was going to need to. A lot.


Retired mattress is unintentionally                                 symbolic

The first time I walked into a crowded bar dressed as Cross, the thing that hit me hardest was how completely under the radar I had become. Nobody, male or female, sized me up. I was neither bait nor competition. I was the looker, not the lookee.  I had stepped outside the whole fucking female paradigm. I was free.

But I think the really good shit hit the fan after I got a film crew to capture me acting as all three characters.  I wrote the script and then I  buttoned up like sweet naive Edie, waiting for Cross with baited breath. Then I melted down like hot little Braylee and told him to get the fuck outta my trailer. And finally, I glued on my facial hair, spat my dip into a bottle, looked deep into the camera, and became Cross:


Well, at least that’s how it felt.

When I returned home that night, with my three identities and spare dick in a bag,  I went through the usual motions. I flipped on the light, hung up my keys, bent down by the the cupboard to get out a bowl, and then, unexpectedly, dropped to a knee. I stared into the back of the dark pantry and happy-cried. Hard. Happy crying, how can I explain this sensation? I know all about sad-crying but this shit was new to me. Imagine feeling so fucking complete that you literally overflow with liquid gratitude. I guess I’d stumbled upon a part of me that had been buried for like, 30 years.  Oh yeah, I’m an actor. I’m a goddamn motherfucking actor, people. I forgot. I had three kids, got stranded in Georgia and I completely forgot. Then one day, I dressed up like a dude and remembered who I fucking was.

And to think, it all started with sad little Edie in a bar bathroom, trying to become someone else.

Dear Diary,

I like Jeff. I think I’m going to dress up like him and film a split-screen sequence making out with myself.

Today is Friday.




copyright © K. Dawn Goodwin 2016



Hamster Food

Ah, personal trainers. I’ve never had one of my own, but I’ve suffered through enough gym memberships to understand their habits. For most of my young life, I was in awe of these competitively “healthy” male narcissists. I believed they could teach me – along with all losers of the world – how to be safe from Fat and Ugly. All I had to do was max out my cardio, hit the weight machine, eat less (aka get an eating disorder) and suddenly,  I would morph into a perfect replica of someone else.

My conclusion now is that while necessary, personal trainers are not always healthy.  Or useful.  Actually, there is something wrong with them.  And by wrong I mean evil. I can’t independently verify this fact, but anyone who spends more than two hours in the gym  every single day for years on end, might be trying very hard to nail the  closet door shut on a stack of skeletons.

I’m not saying that I’m not slightly intimidated by their carefully sculpted muscles, because I always have been. I mean, their flat stomachs and perma-tans, their holocaust against stray body hair, and of course the way their paper-thin skin recedes around their eye sockets. It looks really “great.”

But lately it’s occurred to me that the perfectness of a personal trainer’s form may be in direct proportion to the size of the demon that is pursuing him. Only it’s not usually a demon, it’s just his sad little inner Fat Kid, the one he can’t afford to let anyone see. He’s bullied him into a box – for now. But, in order to keep that lid clamped down, most personal trainers have to develop a fairly significant – and highly arrogant – Inner Asshole.

I knew a personal trainer once who also owned a tanning salon, ie, a man with a giant Inner Asshole.  His job was to motivate overweight women, to help them get in shape. You know, better their lives. But outside work, he spent most of his time scanning for hot chicks. Hundred-pounders, he’d call them, like turkeys. When he’d find one, he’d wait til she passed by so he could turn and analyze her butt.

“Gross,” he’d say. “She was better from the front.”

Which begs the question.  If we want to be personally trained, do we really want it from people who live like a caloric POWs, eating more performance-enhancing acronyms than regular food? Is measuring salad dressing with a syringe – and a woman’s ass on a sliding scale – really the Happy Ending to a life of health and fitness?

But personal trainers like these populate the health and fitness world, especially mainstream weight loss reality shows.

I recently watched an episode of True Life on MTV called I Used to be Fat, where a teenager was coached by a trainer to lose 90 pounds in 90 days. There was a related video on about nutrition. On it, a human Ken doll, standing behind a counter of meats and vegetables explains how to be perfect:

“What does a balanced diet look like? It means low calories! That won’t store as fat!”

He shows us a chicken breast cooked with a drop of olive oil –just a drop! That’s it! – along with a pile of pale quinoa and broccoli florets.  Wait, hold yo. Did he really stand there with his plastic-looking torso and suggest quinoa?  I mean in theory, sure, eat *gag* quinoa.  But the thing is, I’m a decorated/recovered health food veteran and even I – on my best days – find it to be about as appealing as fish spawn.  So, because this is MTV, picture the obese youth of middle America – neglected, high and unhappy, watching TV with their hand in a bag of chocolate-covered Doritos.  Undaunted, personal trainer holds up a Ziploc bag that contains a teensy handful of nuts.

“You don’t want to get carried away! So maybe about nine or ten of these almonds? That would be a good snack for you.”

Portion control? With raw almonds? For fuck’s sake, most of his viewers haven’t even seen a raw almond this year, let alone tried to chew it into a flavorless paste.  They should be allowed to eat all the raw almonds they can stomach.  Surely there is an imperfect middle ground between fast food slavery and the vegan promised land? Something that your average American kid could easily assimilate?  No,  there isn’t.  He can’t allow for that because he is from the world of shark cartilage supplements, obsessively timed reps and incrementally reduced rice cakes.  He is a mother effing personal trainer.

He points at a beautiful bunch of fresh carrots. “These vegetables have too much sugar!” He warns. “Stay away! Also, white rice is out. No good! Stick with a small amount of brown rice. Oh, and try lentils! And clean meat!”

Yes, this would all be very useful dogma, if his audience was  prepping for a bodybuilding competition. But they’re not.  Below his online video, their comments pour into the website from the basements of suburbia, the “dirty” meat demographic, the teary-eyed cries for help from our collective inner Fat Kid. Each one says the same thing, how much they hate their bodies, how fat they are, how they cry more than anyone they know, how they are at the lowest point in their life and don’t know what to do. But the video ends and the mothership steams onward, dropping an ad for McDonald’s in its wake.

Health & Fitness, after all, doesn’t really make people happy. Because once you get thin, you might get fat. If you get fat, how will you get thin? It’s just a hamster wheel destined for Perfect, which does not exist. It’s a subjective, shape-shifting illusion sold by the  Personal Trainers of the world, who you’d never guess are just as unhappy as anyone.

If I was the trainer, what would I tell the overweight girl typing a letter to MTV bemoaning her total unworthiness? I would tell her, go to the mirror and look at yourself. No matter what you see reflected back, say I love you. Say I love you exactly like this, no matter what.  Say it out loud even if you feel like a sorry prick. Even if it’s a lie. Do 3 reps every day.  Never stop.   That’s the real work. No personal training is harder than that.

Maybe that’s why we crave the tips, the tricks, the dogma of diet, the expense of hiring a repressed asshole to yell in our ears while we run the hamster wheel.  Sure it’s hard as hell, expensive, but it’s a cakewalk compared to getting out of the cage in our mind.  Or facing the fact that we’re in one.

copyright © K. Dawn Goodwin 2010-2011

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