Catherine Mary Stewart is coming to town
and you never watched Days of our Lives
or saw The Last Starfighter or Night of the Comet
but you know that face from before you knew the names of actresses.
She was everything you didn’t have in the ’80s:
skinny-belted, dark denim,
perky-collared, tucked blouse,
feathered waves of frosty highlights,
beach-ready bikini wax suntanned dignity,
insinuating blue eyes, nonchalant cinnamon lips and zeitgeist eyebrows
confident and strong with long aerobic dancer legs—
everything you couldn’t be
no matter how hard you tried.

The doctor said you were going to be 5’10.
He literally said, “You are going to be tall,”
when he looked at the x-rays
before your first bunionectomy in seventh grade,
but it was like a curse
and you never grew another inch.

In college you wore leotards and flowing skirts
with your hair twisted high in a knot,
but you didn’t dance unless you got drunk,
and you skipped dance class to sip bloody marys
mixed with Absolut peppar vodka by your friend Christopher,
the two of you passing Anais Nin’s diary back and forth
reading her descriptions of Antonin Artaud.
“To be kissed by Artaud was to be poisoned.”

This was after the acne faded,
and the braces came off and you got contacts
(Catherine Mary Stewart probably has perfect vision)
and you permed your hair like the other girls, now that it had grown out from when your mom clipped it short,
because you swam every day and the chlorine turned it to straw,
and she couldn’t comb through it anymore without making you cry.

Your mother wasn’t a professor like Catherine Mary Stewart’s
and you didn’t know your dad.
You don’t remember being encouraged,
not that they didn’t praise you, you just don’t remember that part.
You couldn’t hear their love under the roar of white trash doubt.
You weren’t Canadian and you missed your chance to go to London.

And now that you finally learned to love yourself after all these years,
you still aren’t photogenic—
you never had the right look at the right time,
you had child-bearing hips and peasant breasts even when you were skinny.
You didn’t get to take time off from work while you raised your kids,
and you still haven’t remarried.
You don’t understand how your daughter learned to be popular,
because she didn’t learn it from watching you.
Your social media accounts will not be verified.
You won’t go on tour or have a cult following.
You’d never look that good with short hair.
You’ll never be Catherine Mary Stewart.

—ali grega, may 2016

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