24 years ago this month, it was to a six-week sublet near what used to be the edge of downtown (why in the world I’m still here is another story.) I enjoyed the location, near a couple of restaurants and coffee shops, and next to a school that presented me with the unfamiliar sounds of children playing. There was a moonlight tower on the corner that shone directly through a window onto my bed at night; my periods got all out of whack until I rigged a black-out curtain, after which I started to miss the permanent moonlight. I walked regularly to my local health food store, a place called Whole Foods. I was low-level horrified that they sold meat; not the case at Integral Yoga Natural Foods in NYC, where I’d worked for awhile during college, enjoying the staff discounts for groceries, smoothies and yoga. Whole Foods had just moved from its original location next to a gas station in a flood zone to a nice shopping center with a book store and I don’t remember what else. There was a studio on the second floor where I studied Sufi mystical dance with a woman named Dunya. I was into tarot and got goose bumps when I learned that her name meant “The World”.
Sometimes I drove to the shopping center, if I were on my way to or from somewhere farther away. In Austin in general, I was struck by how many cars sported bumper stickers; I’d never lived anywhere that had such a culture of automobile decor as self-expression. I remember pulling out of that particular parking lot behind an especially bedazzled vehicle ( the rule still seems to hold that the shittier the car the more likely to have stickers, and more shitty among the shit, the more stickers likely to be had). It was then that the idea came to me to get a bumper sticker made that said, “Ask Me About My Abortion”.
I loved this flash of inspiration. I’d never had a bumper sticker. I drove an old blue Mazda, so I had right raw material to work with, and it felt authentic to me as an artist to fabricate my own message. I wanted to be inclusive, to bridge gaps, to start conversations. To empower women. To shine light into dark places, like the tower had done to my bedroom. For me, the statement had the right mix of sass, humor and sincerity. It felt provocative yet authentic.
But then I started to realize it might not be such a hot idea. BBQ at the health food store, guns and Republicans just past the city limits (a new friend took me to the rodeo; he might have taken me to Mars). Slapping that on the back of your car would be a good way to get your tires slashed, the New Yorker in me rationally positioned. Or worse, the dubious stranger-in-a-strange-land in me replied.
Years passed, decades passed, yet I am really fucking tenacious when it comes to ideas. Maybe this has to do with being a 5 on the Enneagram. For years I gingerly unfolded emptied and dried hundreds of tea bags; it was perhaps ten years later that I got around to using them as part of an art project called The Dendochronology of Domestic Destruction (or something like that). I still have the left overs in a shoe box, waiting for another project. This very blog I began in 2012, abandoned for several years, and voila now it’s risen from the dead. After my second divorce, the event that inspired the DDD series, I revisited the “Ask Me” idea. A t-shirt, I thought. It should be something personal, worn on a body.
Ask me about my abortion.
A t-shirt…. might be asking for a gunshot wound. I could always carry a vest to throw on over it…. but still.
Finally I settled on a baseball cap. Easy to remove in a hurry. This was pre-MAGA; I chose the red white and blue as a funny yet simple aesthetic statement. I had several made, as I was certain they would be in high demand. I did give one to an acquaintance as we met over lunch to discuss a business idea. I hadn’t brought it for her, I was just wearing it myself, but she admired it so I let her take it home. For most of our lunch it sat on the table off to the side next to a window overlooking the restaurant’s patio. A cluster of gay men sat down outdoors, and began enthusiastically rapping the window, pointing to the cap, and giving us the thumbs up.
I rarely wear the cap. Often I end up at an event and wish I’d brought it along, but it’s there in my pajama drawer, a reminder every time I see it of both my intention to create dialogue and the difficulty of following through on that intention.