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My Mother, the Virgin, and Me

What would happen if women, in grief about war and destruction, bared their breasts and gathered together to lament and grieve in public?
My Mother the Virgin, and Me

By Sherry Glaser

I can't help but wonder what would happen if the thousands, or maybe millions of women who feel the grief at the level that I do went to Washington, or their own city halls, or just stood out in front of the mall and expressed their deepest emotions, stripped down and beat their breasts in ritual wailing.

My breasts are extremely big right now. I mean they're usually quite large 40 DD, but at this point I'm bursting the seams of my bra. Each breast must weigh at least ten pounds. I'm glad I have a fairly large ass, because otherwise I would fall over from the imbalance. I missed my last period, not because I'm pregnant, see I'm a lesbian and I'm fairly certain oogenesis hasn't occurred. My hormones are in a tailspin. I'm impatient with my children and I'm avoiding people in general. And so of course I ask myself why? Why is my body acting in such rebellion, distracting me from daily chores and the busy ness of life? I think the answers lie somewhere in the facts that the entire world is in enormous crisis and that my mother is locked up again in the "mental health" wing of her community hospital.

Ever since I can remember, my mother has been dealing with the belief that she is the Virgin Mary reincarnated. When I was four years old in '64 that conviction sent her marching down the street with my baby brother in tow, claiming the Messiah had come. After several courses of shock treatment and Thorazine she returned to us as our beloved Shelly Glaser, though much subdued and very obedient to the ways of a housewife in the early sixties. Somehow she's maintained her functional self since then with the help of Lithium, a salt that has given her the proper chemical balance one needs to act like a civilized human being. Unfortunately, Lithium is very hard on the kidneys so in 2002 my mother had kidney failure and her mind went at the same time. Since then it's been a pharmaceutical nightmare trying to find medication that would bypass the kidneys and keep her sane at the same time. We have found some success, but it's temporary and as of this moment she is locked safe behind the heavy metal doors sedated with Haldol, Atavan, Xyprexa and Bendryl. It's funny how my computer doesn't recognize these as words and underlines them as misspelled.

I spoke with her this morning and through her haze she told me that "it's all backwards." If she tells the truth that she's Mary, then she's labeled as crazy. If she lies and says she's Shelly, then she's sane. She can't reconcile this. She asked me if I believed her. I hesitated and said, that I didn't, but I loved her and I was listening. I asked if that was good enough and she said, "yes." She told me she loved me and hung up.

Here's the dilemma. I am an actress. I am known for my solo works -- Family Secrets, where I portray all the members of my family, including my bi polar mother, and more recently my show Oh My Goddess where I play two characters,Miguel De Cervantes, the channel for the return of the mother Goddess, Ma, whom I also play. On stage I incarnate as the Jewish mother of us all. I call it a Comedy of Biblical Proportions. This work is full of deep philosophy and outrageous humor. Audiences all over California have devoured the work and on a few occasions, young men have come up to me afterwards and kissed my feet. It's incredibly intoxicating.

So at this point my mother is telling me that it is time for her to reveal herself as Mary, that my brother should reveal himself as Christ and I should reveal myself as his twin sister, Sara. She says this is Armageddon and the world is depending on us. That brings me back to my heaving breasts and my role on the planet. My role in the revolution or what I'm supposed to do right now. As Holly Near says, "If each one does just one thing beautifully, complex life on earth might not die."

A few months ago, some of my women friends and I started a movement called "Breasts not Bombs. We stand bare breasted on the streets of Mendocino and hold up signs pointing out what truly is indecent. "War is indecent," "Immigration sweeps are indecent," "Torture is Indecent," and so on. It is our attempt to bring the sanctity of the mother and her breasts into view. To awaken people to the fact that 2omen and children are the uncounted victims of war in this homicidal American Policy. And it is through the nurturing, loving, live giving mother that we will survive. We want to restore the feminine to power. We are met with many honks of approval and a small number of offended people who run down the street, shielding their children's eyes. Many of the women I stand with have small breasts and though it takes courage to take off their shirts I feel much more vulnerable. Mine are huge. There is no mistaking the fact that I am revealing myself. You can't miss them or dismiss them. Every time I move, my pendulous mammaries bounce uncontrollably. They have a life of their own.

Why are they so big? Why are they swelling more each day? Why won't I bleed? I believe it is because I am carrying the sorrows of this world. This crushing sadness of war and the destruction of all that is sacred is undeniable and yet it is socially unacceptable to respond to it. My therapist told me that I am dealing with the grief of losing my mother and that my need to bare myself on the street is a way to bridge with her. He suggested I light candles at my altar and calm down. I posed the possibility that this "madness" of hers may not just be insanity, but a real connection to the line of Mary and perhaps she is one that would be considered an oracle in earlier, matriarchal times. Perhaps without the intervention of synthetic chemicals she could truly be seeing through the veil of illusion. I mean my grandmother had been locked up as well and actually died in an institution. Perhaps it is in my blood that I am to carry this message. There was a time when this was possible. Why not again?

So many of my sisters speak daily of their depression, their shock and horror around the lies and deceptions of corporations and government. They get sick and tired and can hardly get through the day, especially now with the specter of fraudulent elections. I am in deep struggle with my urge to strip off my clothes and rant and rage down the street at the colossal injustices of today to get the attention of a severely censored and right wing media. I mean Janet Jackson grabbed the headlines with a one second revelation of her nipple. Why not us, for a just cause?

A couple of years ago I went to Washington D.C. to see what the hell was going on. I've always wanted to penetrate those hallowed halls with a heavy dose of the feminine, explore the chinks in the armor. I went to the senate and sat in the gallery. That day Hillary Clinton was presiding over the chamber as they decided what further sanctions and punishments they could impose on Yassar Arafat and the Palestinian people. I began to cry. First only the people in the gallery could hear me, but I then intentionally upped the volume, until Hillary couldn't help but look up. An eager usher came and firmly grabbed my arm to remove me from the chambers. I then sat in the hallway, surrounded by security guards who suggested I go into the ladies room and freshen up. I told them I didn't want to freshen up. I wanted to cry. They seemed frightened at the prospect of a woman weeping, maybe even more frightened than if I had a gun. They know how to respond to that kind of threat.

I can't help but wonder what would happen if the thousands, or maybe millions of women who feel the grief at the level that I do went to Washington, or their own city halls, or just stood out in front of the mall and expressed their deepest emotions, stripped down and beat their breasts in ritual wailing. What kind of effect would that would have? I believe that kind of power would be undeniable. I believe it is time for all women, grandmothers, daughters to reveal themselves. I believe letting these atrocities go unanswered is insanity. Maybe I'm just peri-menopausal, or maybe like my mother, I'm just crazy.



Sherry Glaser is the star and author of the Off-Broadway hit Family Secrets, Oh My Goddess, The Good News, and Remember This !(An Intimate Portrait of War through the Eyes of Women). She is the single mother of two girls and makes her home in the redwoods of Northern California. Contact her for Political actions or performances at <www.sherryglaser.net/>
 
 


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