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Chelsea Hodson Writes About Women’s Desires, And Moments Of Heat

Culture

‘Tonight I’m Someone Else’ is out tomorrow

"It's an honor to be so distracted, so consumed, to leave my mind"—Chelsea Hodson, Tonight I'm Someone Else

An hour before I met Chelsea Hodson, the sky over New York was cloudless; a tight, thin, white-blue membrane over the city, the kind that makes it easy to forget that, basically, there are infinite miles of darkness beyond it. But by the time we entered a restaurant in Chinatown, choosing a table right next to a wall of open, floor-to-ceiling windows, the sky had shifted into something heavy and low and gray. And at the exact—or close to exact—moment we sat down, a giant gust of wind swept in through those windows, clearing most of the restaurant's tables of their place settings and knocking down vase after vase of flowers, so that the floor was instantly covered in pools of water and recumbent white carnations.

This felt appropriate, as Hodson's debut essay collection, Tonight I'm Someone Else, recounts story after story of near-disaster, almost-destruction, "the possibility of ruin"; those times when you most realize the fragility of the world and your place in it. It also offers something else, a chance to look at the ways in which we avoid disaster, how we sometimes do so through mere chance, and other times, we survive thanks to something more innate, through our intuition. All to say, our table was one of the few that remained unscathed in those first few moments of the storm, before the windows were closed, and the rain really started to come down.

I'd had a semi-strange experience reading Hodson's book, in that I wasn't reading one copy but going back and forth between the two copies in my possession; I kept one in my bag and the other by my bed, and would pick up with one where I'd left off with the other, though it was always an imperfect exercise, because I read the same pages more than once, underlining different parts along the way, noticing different things in the same words, transferring my experience and energy, warping it ever so slightly, along the way.

"It almost lends itself well to the book," Hodson said to me after I told her how I'd been reading, "where these multiple selves exist, and there's all the doubling."

These multiple selves of which Hudson speaks are a key part of the quicksilver feeling of these essays, the mercurial slipperiness on the page, reflecting the lightning fast way the mind can conjure up a million different realities, all in the amount of time it takes for a stoplight to turn from red to green. Though these essays portray different parts of Hodson's life—from an intense, adolescent best friendship at a summer camp, to a part-time early job at a copy shop, to spontaneous moves to unfamiliar cities, to Hodson's boundary exploring work as a performance artist—they don't exist in any kind of chronological order, because, as Hodson explained to me, "It’s not what I’m interested in writing. I don’t need a neat beginning, middle, and end. I've always embraced both reading and writing in a more messy sense, that we can be both good and bad at the same time, or that something makes no sense and there is no ending. I’m excited about that ambiguity and mess."

That excitement about ambiguity and messiness is palpable on the page, only Hodson explores these maybe amorphous concepts with a crystalline lucidity, pulling abstract concepts into focus, as if life were one big magic eye poster, one wildly colorful blur that suddenly takes on a specific form once you've finally let your eyes relax. Her ability to find definition in chaos is, in part, due to the spare nature of Hodson's prose, which speaks to her background in both poetry and journalism (not normally two fields that merge, or merge so well), but also it feels reflective of her work as a performance artist, a medium grounded in spontaneity and reactiveness, something that seems deliberately at odds with the planned nature, the excessive editing and reparative aspects, of writing. 

"I’ve been thinking a lot about how performance plays into writing itself, how the element of persona plays into writing essays," Hodson explained. "Even if I’m able to tune it out, deep down knowing that I want it to be out in the world someday, that changes how I describe something or look at something. That idea of doing something without performing is something I have to work on and practice."

It's interesting, of course, to think about performance in non-fiction, if only because so many people don't want to admit the role that perspective plays in the telling of truth—whatever truth means. One of the parts of Hodson's writing that resonates deeply is her refusal to participate in the notion that an essay needs to be a point-by-point recitation of facts; that it needs data in order to be honest. In playing with the idea of truth—among her lines I underlined most emphatically: "It seems I might be able to pretend anything into existence... It might be my greatest work: inventing the problems of my life"—Hodson subverts the traditional notion of the essay, and, in doing so, gets to some higher plane of understanding. She said to me:

The reader thinks everything is the truth, or at least as close to the truth as it can be, but then I’ll lift off into a very fictional realm, where it’s clear that it’s impossible. Like in "Pity the Animal," there’s a part where I end up on an island where there’s versions of myself on all-fours. I like the idea of these surrealistic images appearing within something that’s more straightforward or more devoted to the truth. You can definitely do that in fiction, but, for me, I’m more interested in blurring that line in something that, on the cover, says “essays," where I'm almost dancing in between these ideas.

This blurring of the truth is also something that feels distinctly feminine, a reminder of all the ways in which women are told that their truths, their experiences, are not the "real" ones, or at least not the ones that matter. "Facts" are often a synonym for the kind of terse recounting of events that have been a hallmark of the male experience, while "feelings" are those ephemeral things used to dismiss women who speak out about their pain and their fears. Female intuition plays a big role in many of Hodson's essays, and, she explained to me, she was interested in exploring the concept because she felt like she hadn't "yet read about that almost female intuition, that I feel like sometimes I’m able to tune into, where it feels almost impossible to describe, which makes it ripe to explore... I’m always interested in the leftover animal parts of ourselves. The things that are still present but were more important centuries ago, but that are still lingering in our bodies, even if they are no longer present all the time."

Another element of the animal self, something which has been, it feels, light bulb-ed and smart phone-d out of existence, is our innate relationship to time. Where once our bodies were attuned to some universal rhythm, we now have different ways of experiencing the cosmic patterns all around us. Hodson is aware of this loss, and of the ways in which time can stretch as long as a piece of taffy between ever-parting fingers—endlessly, until there's an end. She told me about the role she feels time played in an instance of her female intuition, when she realized that a man who had been stalking her at her job would not be doing so anymore: "Time almost slowed, it became something unimportant. Time felt amorphous, like, not linear at all. Time felt simultaneously super-short and like I’d been there all day."

And whereas many writers might fear exploring something so ambiguous as that within the realm of an essay, Hodson had no such qualms, and told me: "I like the way nonfiction can mess with that, where you can have one second last 10 pages. It seems so ripe for literature." She explained to me that this type of exploration of the temporal is one reason that "there’s a lot of driving in the book," because it lent itself to "all this empty alone time in between all these moments of heat." 

This, then, is what Hodson does with real artistry, sliding back and forth between the quotidian languorousness of life and those electric crackles of enlightenment, those times when we feel like we've seen beyond the veils, lifted the mask from our eyes, and discovered the way things actually are. The world will doubtlessly blur again, and we'll need to go on searching for new experiences that offer that same electrifying sensation, that opportunity for enlightenment, but we'll know those white-hot moments are out there. And we're lucky to have Hodson writing about them; as she told me not long before we headed back out into the yellow-gray world of a post-storm New York, where everything was cooler and wetter and softer: "There’s a lot more to be written about women’s desires in particular. And there’s space for me to contribute to that... I’m interested in documenting these moments of heat." 

Tonight I'm Someone Else is available for purchase here, starting June 5.

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Photos by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for WE Day, Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

He also thought Lana Del Rey telling him he would be guillotined was a compliment, so we don't think he understands women

In a new memoir called Then It Fell Apart, singer Moby alleged he had a relationship with actress Natalie Portman when he was 33 and she was 20. But, in a new interview with Harper's Bazaar, Portman set the record straight, saying that his description of their relationship is false and contains other factual errors, that makes his behavior seem even grosser than it already did.

Not only did Portman say that the two didn't date, but that he also misrepresented her age. "I was surprised to hear that he characterized the very short time that I knew him as dating because my recollection is a much older man being creepy with me when I just had graduated high school," she said. "He said I was 20; I definitely wasn't. I was a teenager. I had just turned 18."

She says that they met when she went to one of his shows: "He said, 'let's be friends'. He was on tour and I was working, shooting a film, so we only hung out a handful of times before I realized that this was an older man who was interested in me in a way that felt inappropriate."

Portman also stated that she was not contacted to fact check this information, noting that "it almost feels deliberate." "That he used this story to sell his book was very disturbing to me. It wasn't the case," she said. "There are many factual errors and inventions. I would have liked him or his publisher to reach out to fact check."

Another part of his memoir describes a conversation with Lana Del Rey, in which she joked about how wealthy he was. "You're a rich WASP from Connecticut and you live in a five-level penthouse. You're 'The Man.' As in, 'stick it to The Man.' As in the person they guillotine in the revolution." His response: "I didn't know if she was insulting me but I decided to take it as a compliment." This only further proves that Moby doesn't understand women at all, which may explain how he took a couple of hangouts with Portman to mean that they were dating.

Moby has since responded to Portman's statement in an equally creepy Instagram post with a photo of him shirtless with the actress, calling the interview a "gossip piece." "We did, in fact, date. And after briefly dating in 1999 we remained friends for years," he said. "I like Natalie, and I respect her intelligence and activism. But, to be honest, I can't figure out why she would actively misrepresent the truth about our (albeit brief) involvement. He also said that he backs up the story in his book with "lots of corroborating photo evidence, etc." He then ends with this: "I completely respect Natalie's possible regret in dating me(to be fair, I would probably regret dating me, too), but it doesn't alter the actual facts of our brief romantic history."

Among many other things that are questionable about his claims, if you have to have "corroborating evidence" to prove a relationship that one person claims didn't happen, you're doing the whole "dating" thing wrong.

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Photo by Jerritt Clark / Stringer / Getty Images.

She's been wonderfully honest about the ups and downs of her procedures

There is a good chance that, right now, Cardi B is wearing really something really tight. I'm not talking about one of the pieces from her Fashion Nova collection, either. Instead, she's probably cooing at baby Kulture while swaddled in a compression garment, a necessary part of the healing process after certain cosmetic surgery procedures.

As reported by E! News, Cardi B has had to cancel several performances after her doctor ordered her to rest and allow her body to recover following cosmetic surgery. A rep for Cardi explained to E! that "Cardi was overzealous in getting back to work" and that "her strenuous schedule has taken a toll on her body and she has been given strict doctor's orders to pull out of the rest of her performances in May." This followed an admission by Cardi herself, at the Beale Street Music Festival earlier this month, that she should have canceled her performance because moving too much would mess up her lipo.

Cardi's transparency about plastic surgery is nothing new for her. She has opened up in the past about her underground butt injections, including the financial pressure she felt and the risks she took to get them. She's been open about both of her breast augmentation procedures as well, most recently getting them redone after giving birth to her daughter. But Cardi's transparency about the ups and downs of plastic surgery is still rare amongst celebrities and is therefore refreshing.

And it's not just celebrities who keep quiet about these procedures. The first person I knew to get a butt augmentation was a friend from high school. We reconnected as adults, and I remember going to her apartment after her surgery, and seeing her pace the floor in her compression garment, since it was still too soon to sit and put pressure on her backside. But even in the comfort of her own home, she seemed to speak in a hushed tone about having had the surgery. Before I'd arrived, she just told me she'd had a "medical procedure," and didn't say anything more. This has been the case for other women I've met who have gotten "work" done, including my aesthetician, a colleague who got a nose job, a darling YouTuber with whom I had the pleasure of having dinner; all of them would only acknowledge their enhancements in secret—the shame was palpable, and unfortunate. It's clear that women who get plastic surgery might be celebrated for the results, but there's an expectation that they should keep quiet about it, and feel bad for having made a choice about their own bodies.

So it's no surprise that, in the pop culture realm, people like Cardi are exceptions to the rule. Thanks to the internet, we can easily track the fullness of a celebrity's lips or backside over the course of time without them ever explicitly acknowledging the medical intervention that took place. And while people, of course, have the right to privacy, and should be able to do whatever they want with their bodies without offering explanations, it would still be nice if they opened up, if only to take away the attached stigma that affects so many people. Which is why I hope Cardi's willingness to lay it all out there becomes a trend. No one should have to harbor shame for investing in having a body that looks the way they want it to.

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Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

"In my head I thought, This is how it ends"

Kit Harington almost lost a lot more than the Iron Throne while filming the final season of Game of Thrones. According to an interview with NowThis News, the actor almost lost one of his balls while riding a mechanical dragon.

Harington revealed that the incident took place when he was filming the scene where his character, Jon Snow, takes a ride on Rhaegal for the first time in the Season 8 premiere. Since dragons aren't real (sorry), Harington was filming the scene, where Jon almost falls off the dragon and then swings around to pick himself back up, on a mechanical contraption.

"My right ball got trapped, and I didn't have time to say, 'Stop,'" Harington said in an interview. "And I was being swung around. In my head I thought, This is how it ends. On this buck, swinging me around by my testicles, literally." We see shots of the fake dragon he's riding in front of a green screen, and it does look pretty terrifying.

Luckily, his testicles remained intact through the near-disastrous event, and he's survived with quite the story to tell to unsuspecting journalists.

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Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for goop

"I had to create a harder shell about being a woman"

In a panel discussion during Gwyneth Paltrow's In Goop Health summit, actress Jessica Alba revealed that she "stopped eating" to avoid unwanted attention from men when she was first starting her career in Hollywood.

According to People, Alba said that she "had a curvy figure as a young girl" and, as such, was made to feel as though her body was the reason that men may be inappropriate toward her. "I was meant to feel ashamed if I tempted men," Alba said during the panel discussion. "Then I stopped eating a lot when I became an actress. I made myself look more like a boy so I wouldn't get as much attention. I went through a big tomboy phase."

She continued, "In Hollywood, you're really preyed upon. They see a young girl, and they just want to touch you inappropriately or talk to you inappropriately or think that they're allowed to be aggressive with you in a way."

Alba also noted that she was raised in a conservative household. "My mom would say, 'You have a body, and it's very womanly, and people don't understand that you're 12,'" she said. "I wasn't allowed to have my nalgas out, which is butt cheeks [in Spanish], but I was born with a giant booty, and they come out of everything. So, I didn't get to wear normal things that all my friends wore."

She said that these reactions to her body really affected her attitude. "I created this pretty insane 'don't fuck with me' [attitude]," she said. "I had to create a harder shell about being a woman."

According to her, her relationship to her body only changed when her first child, Honor, was born in 2008. "[After she was born,] I was like, Oh this is what these boobies are meant to do! Feed a kid!" she said. "And that was the dopest shit I'd ever done. So, I came into my body as a woman finally and I stopped being ashamed of myself."

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Photo courtesy of Teva

Because of course

Teva, the most obvious lesbian footwear brand since Birkenstock, really knows its customer base. In time for Pride, the brand has teamed up with Tegan and Sara for a gay shoe to end all gay shoes. In other words, your Pride footwear is on lock.

The shoe isn't just your average Teva sandal. Tegan and Sara's design, the Teva Flatform Universal Pride sandal, is a 2.5-inch platform shoe with a rainbow sole. Tegan and Sara noted in a press release that they have been Teva wearers for pretty much their whole lives. "We got our first pair of Teva sandals when we were 16," they said. "This rainbow Flatform collab is like full circle LGBTQ+ Pride validation."

What's better, with each sandal sale, Teva will donate $15 to the Tegan and Sara Foundation, up to $30,000. The funds donated will go toward scholarships which will give young members of the LGBTQ+ community the chance to go to summer camps which will "help develop self-confidence and leadership abilities in a safe and nurturing environment." Tegan and Sara added, "Teva's generous support for our foundation will allow us to help even more LGBTQ+ youth."

Available today at Teva's and Nordstrom's websites, the sandal retails for $80.

Photo courtesy of Teva

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