photo credit Hollie R
This is where I come from. Hollie posts that the best sunsets are always at this drop zone and I have to agree although they don't always look like this. I don't understand this thing which looks like a vertical windsock. The part of me that has trouble with change wishes I could see the old kind, the one which was deep orange and battered and blew straight out if there was enough wind; pointing like a compass with degrees of wind force so you would understand where to put yourself or the plane although later it made me think of degrees of erection. This might have been due to the often overwhelming infusion of testosterone which got into everything the same way the smaller grains of drop zone dust worked itself into the crevices of anything not bathed on a regular basis.
It is hard for me to visit my home because once there, I never want to leave. I want to throw away my life and the lives of my children and live on the drop zone on weekends spending everything I have just to stay in the air. I know that Elizabeth's dance tuition (which is breath taking) would barely cover eight jumps in a weekend, 45 weeks out of the year and maybe that would be enough. I think she is too old to have that culture inflicted on her and I remember when I was fifteen. Very clearly. Would they be as afraid of me as they were of my father when I stepped into the plane for the first time? Probably. I look like I'll rip your throat out in certain circumstances. I am fairly sure I learned that here.
Despite being, what did I call it? Male-centric and misogynistic, I grew the spine and skin out here which, while not necessarily being the rails was most certainly the engine that got me to the place I am today by NOT following the rules. It is scary as shit to exit an aircraft which is not on the ground but when I think about it, the scarier bits were learning to stand my ground when I got pushed or stopped or left behind or talked about in a way which I didn't much appreciate. Common wisdom said (and still does, people) that if you don't want to be the village bicycle, put more clothes on and just say no and for God's sake, don't ask for it directly. When you do that, you're a prude. There's just no easy way out. I wasn't the village bicycle, by the way. I was selective and my father's best friend had a gun. I would not have been the village bicycle if I'd slept with every man on that drop zone anymore than the jump-masters who slept with female students were the village bicycle. They were just predators and my father pretty much shut them down for two reasons I could see; 1. an older man (there was almost always a significant age difference) using his age, position, and authority to get into the pants of a female student was unconscionable, and 2. If you fuck them and they walk away feeling bad about themselves (which they generally did), they won't come back. Not too different from the contra world today except the contra environment isn't nearly as intense; it's just easy to lose yourself and think you're safe right up until you're not. A predator is a predator wherever he is and he is almost always certain that he is not.
I was just a fifteen and then sixteen and then seventeen year old in a little black bikini. It was HOT out there. I still have the denim cutoffs I wore to cover up at least some of that skin and they don't have much more fabric than the bikini bottom. I take them out of my closet and laugh sometimes at the smallness that was me before I had hips of any sort. I did a funny thing though; as soon as I was in a significant relationship (as significant as you're going to get in high school) I covered that shit up. How the hell did I know to do that; or more importantly, why did I think I should? I can't really answer the first directly but the why is all about ownership. I am no longer free to bare my skin because I belong to someone and nobody else should be looking at this. I don't think that came from the drop zone because for the most part, nobody owned anybody. People paired but rarely married and stayed paired until it was time to step left in the circle and meet the next; kind of like a dance. There weren't many women when I started but they owned themselves. Now there are many women on that drop zone and I see the same posture, the same stance, and the same look on their faces when one of the male species pushes the envelope. Last I checked, Hollie, who is older than me but looks maybe five years younger had a boy. I remember having a conversation with him and understanding exactly why he was with her (there was some serious and understandable hero worship going on) but for the life of me I couldn't understand why she was with him. Eventually I did understand but my father might have had to explain it to me. When I get the hits on the electronic free for all dating site (two of them aren't searchable) from guys in their twenties I have no idea how to respond other than delete the communications; even the fairly lengthy, well thought out emails. Periodically I send back the ages of my children and leave it at that. It makes me feel funny though, as if they can't see me, just an idea of who or what they want me to be.
Mostly I don't feel any of these ways anymore other than strong. I know the drop zone is just the world in a fish bowl. Everything that happened or happens there, happens in the rest of the world to some extent or another it's just that you can camouflage yourself and your ways of being in a much bigger context. I know that in a world where everything is on the line from the moment you pack your gear to when your feet (ass, knees, or face) hit the ground there is no place for anything other than complete and utter directness. Ground rush, it's as serious as a heart attack. Words aren't minced, powdered, or sugared. The truth is spoken as plainly and quickly as possible. If your feelings are prone to getting hurt or you take things personally, you will either die or leave; best that you leave because nobody likes a fatality. The most common word yelled on a drop zone was ASSHOLE! Maybe it still is today; I'm not sure I'd notice so much in that context and that might have been a leftover from the first generation which came mostly from the military, but the point was clear in one word.
It took me a long time to realize the word 'direct' wasn't exactly a compliment and the only way I was going to be heard was to speak in a way people could hear me. I am good at this for the most part, especially in a corporate environment (the statement, 'let me finish' is incredibly effective) and I am gentle with my friends. I have trouble in relationship if I can't make myself heard because there is so much more on the line. I notice I drop into female mode even while I'm still using my words in an effort to communicate harmless and submissive; I am not your enemy, I just want to make this work, be allowed to use my words, be heard because I matter.
These days, jumping out of a plane feels safer than being in relationship and the truth is, it probably is.
And I'm still looking for the windsock from the place where my engine was built.