No, I Won’t Tone That Down For You!


I was reminded Thursday night of one of my “LIFE RULES.” Not only reminded of the rule, but of why I made the rule, and more importantly, why I need to stick to it. I had gone to the Poetry Jam here in Gainesville, and was asked if I would remove my ankle bells (which, by the way I am very aware of, and I only move around rarely and when it’s appropriate anyway), and though I was asked by a wonderful, loving and profoundly talented person in the most tactful way possible (so much so that I almost agreed to do it), I left. And here’s why:

The rule is (and for those of you who know me well enough to know many things about my past, this will make sense):

I will NEVER again change anything about myself to suit anyone for any reason. Take me as I am or let me be.

Now one might ask… why not just take them off for the Poetry Jam? Well, I’ll get into why as it pertains to my life rule in a moment, but there are other reasons, like for example that I am a musician, and I’ve played noisy bars and coffee houses many times (many many times… “Stuck in a Lodi again”). So as far as I’m concerned, performers need to learn to deal with a few little distractions… if you can’t, that’s simply unprofessional… then there’s the whole “get over yourself” bit, too. Additionally, what is more poetic than the sound of a barefoot girl in ankle bells crossing a room? Well… the answer is nothing. I mean, one only needs to read a few Irish poems or song lyrics to encounter lines about girls with bells on their ankles and rings on their toes (I had both, by the way). So far as I’m concerned, what kind of poet is annoyed by rather than inspired by the sound of a barefoot girl in ankle bells crossing a room? Maybe it’s just me (and the Irish, Gypsies, Hindus and Arabians of old), but it seems a rather poetic and romantic image and sound, but what do I know, ’cause I still think poems oughta rhyme and should probably not have to contain the word “fuck” as a matter of course. Not that I even mind the word “fuck,” it’s a great word, perhaps even The Great Word (“poop’s a good word, too, by the way, but “fuck’s” better, I suppose).

Case in point:


Mira Danced with Ankle Bells

Mira danced with ankle-bells on her feet.

People said Mira was mad; my mother-in-law

said I ruined the family reputation.

Rana sent me a cup of poison and Mira

drank it laughing.

I dedicated my body and soul at the feet of Hari.

I am thirsty for the nectar of the sight of him.

Mira’s lord is Giridhar Nagar; I will

come for refuge to him.

And another:

K Balachandran · Sep 18, 2012
Your ankle bells..steal my sleep

Your ankle bells sonorous, kama’s weapons,
kill my nights mercilessly, oh! doe of the mountains
I roll on my bed, hearing them clinking always
come wearing them, let me relieve my pain, holding you in my arms.

But all that ranting aside, let’s get back to why I have this one grand rule:

I will NEVER again change anything about myself to suit anyone for any reason.

Well, let’s just leave the past out of it except to say that for decades I lived a very wrong and unhealthy life for fear of what others might think of me. I lived a dreadful depressing life full of alcohol and self denial. I am liberated now. And I had even abandoned and questioned my own dreams due to pressure from others. I won’t go into any more detail than that, but there are more immediate reasons than my past… my present.

In the present I have been told and asked to:

Tone down the way I dress,
Tone down my make-up,
Tone down my hair,
Tone down my vanilla perfume (by the way, no one ever tells people to back off on that overwhelming patchouli stuff),
Of course my barefoot lifestyle has also come under fire,
And now I’m to tone down my ankle bells.


I like my purple eyeshadow, vanilla perfume, hardcore barefoot lifestyle, clothes, hair, AND my toe rings and ankle bells. And besides, if I begin taking those things away, toning down, taming, conforming… what’s left of me? I’ll tell you what’s left of me… someone else, or at least a me that is based on committee decisions about who I am, and what I should look, smell, and sound like. No, folks, I’m Justine, purple, shiny lips, vanilla, big hair, bare feet, bangles, bells and all! If you don’t like me as I am… I’ll go somewhere else.

And besides, like I said earlier, what kind of poet isn’t inspired by a girl’s ankle bells? Well, one that doesn’t use rhymes and says “fuck” a lot, I guess.

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