Google+ Badge

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Kim Addonizio Knows "What Women Want." Listen Up, Guys.


What Do Women Want?

by Kim Addonizio


I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what's underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty's and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I'm the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I'll pull that garment
from its hanger like I'm choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I'll wear it like bones, like skin,
it'll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.


It's the eternal question for us adoring but clueless males: "What do women want?" We love you, girls. We really do. Yet, perhaps our inherent, thin-corpus-callosum brains prevent sufficient right hemisphere activation that would allow us to understand you. It's not because most of us don't desperately attempt to understand you. But, try as we might, it's just that we men just plain "don't get it" in the category of "Female Desires."

OK, maybe bigger in brain size doesn't matter. After all, male brains contain about 6.5 times more gray "thinking" matter than women, but it doesn't seem to help us understand females. And, who knows?  Maybe too much of that damned, pesky testosterone has soaked into our frontal cortex and eaten away our ability to interpret appetites and requirements. I confess that I am a novice (at age 62) in figuring out females.

So, gentlemen, thank God for poets like Kim Addonizio, who addresses this important question in her verse "What Do Women Want?" With a strong voice and powerful imagery, she provides the reader information that answers the gender question. Like all good poems, this verse requires very careful multiple readings.

The symbol that focuses a woman's desire in the poem is the "flimsy, cheap, tight, revealing, red dress." I bet all the sex-starved men are already salivating. But let me warn you, boys: it's not that easy to understand this attire.

Being a music lover I remember a very similar image from a Sugar Pie Desanto popular song "Soulful Dress."

Soulful Dress
 
I’m gonna put on my dress
With those pits above the side
With that tight thin waist
And that low neck line


Lord I’m going to the party
Gonna have some fun
Gonna shake and shout 

Until the morning calls
 

If you wanna keep your man
You better keep as sharp as you can

I’ll be at my best
When I put on my soulful dress 


I’m gonna put on my dress
That hits me way above my knees
With that v-cut back
It has straps instead of sleeves


Lord I’m going to the party
Uuuh, looking good
I’m gonna shake everybody
Like I knew I would 


Don’t you girls go and gettin' jealous 
If I round up all your fellows 
'Cause I’ll be at my best 
When I wear my soulful dress 

I’m gonna put on my dress 
That hits me way above my knees 
With that v-cut back 
It has straps instead of sleeves 

Lord I’m going to the party 
Uuuh, looking good 
I’m gonna shake everybody 
Like I knew I would 

Don’t you girls go and gettin' jealous 
If I round up all your fellows 
'Cause I’ll be at my best 
When I put on my soulful dress

Like the singer in "Soulful Dress," the woman speaker in the poem is filled with bodily desire and defiant sexuality -- yet Addonizio's sexy lady is not planning to signify at a party, but instead she is boldly stating her hunger for the threads that will set her free to "strut her stuff" downtown.

The singer in Sugar Pie's song issues a warning to other girls at the function who may see themselves as her attractive competition; however, Kim's speaker's thirsty libido drives her to relish walking through town like she is "the only woman on earth" who can have her pick of admirers. This woman flat out doesn't care about anything but satisfying her flaming scarlet urge.

"I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want."


The speaker asserts a lust for life in the face of unstated social restrictions. She is a female committed to being herself -- AND... to be herself at any cost. Since she uses the pronouns "your" and "you," not only does she want to parade before the townspeople, but also she intends to sting the reader with the heated image of her innermost desires. The speaker's voice is full of defiant attitude toward past misconceptions and unfair judgment of her personality and feminine "itch."

"I want that red dress bad.
I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty's and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders."


So, for someone viewing this poem as a girl hot to trot her buns down Main Street, I'm interjecting a little light here. This speaker doesn't want to dazzle the town with "t and a." The meaning associated with the symbolic "red dress" goes beyond a simple statement of sexiness, sensuality, or personal desire -- it should be seen as evidence of a pledge to be the impetus to "show the lousy townies" it's time to recognize the roar of femininity, and give the girl her due favor.  

It is evident that the speaker does not want to wear the red dress as a costume or as a fashion. In the dress, she means to reveal her naked identity: she wants the people to see the dress as her skin, an outward "organ" of her true soul.

It appears the garment may symbolize fervor for universal women's rights: things like equal pay, equal opportunity, and equal respect. Can Addonizio be saying her "red dress" is a banner that flies in the face of moralistic convention itself? In this case, the speaker in the poem seems less self centered and much more concerned with universal, basic human rights.

And, I understand the power of honest, straightforward action that allows a human -- a man or a woman -- to be a happy, joyful creature free of social restriction and comfortable with their body and appearance. The speaker in "What Do Women Want?" asserts her femininity in her own way, and she believes in being self defined, not in being controlled by others. Rebellious and defiant? Definitely. Entitled to be free, sensual, and strong? You bet.


 Kim Addonizio


Guys, I hope you have learned what I believe I have learned from Kim Addonizio's cynical, street-smart "red dresser." She is one determined, desirous lady who is set on getting what she wants. Sorry, men. What she wants seems to have little to do with "floating the boat" of a man. It has more to do with an Otis Redding tune made famous by one special lady named Aretha Franklin. If you need the correct spelling of that song, it's R-E-S-P-E-C-T. In this poem, however, it's spelled R-E-D...D-R-E-S-S.


"When I find it, I'll pull that garment
from its hanger like I'm choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I'll wear it like bones, like skin,
it'll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in."


Now, that's a lady "lovely in her bones." She wants to be that beautiful woman even in her last scene on earth. All I can say is: "Wear that 'goddamned dress,' girl." You got the body and the spirit to make it your own. Put on that soulful red dress! Whether your name is Wong or Guerra, you better "get it" and "get it good."


Sugar Pie Desanto
Post a Comment