Today my partner was like, hey when are you going to write another post about comics for your blog? And now I am sitting here waiting for the mailman to drop a copy of Valley of the Dolls on my stoop (Amazon.com has promised me it will arrive by 8 p.m. today), and I just felt like, you know what? Today I will post my long-percolating review of a comic about abortion.
This is the kind of book I hope my present and future girl relatives find when they go through my bookshelves because in some parallel universe, I imagine myself finding this lil text during a sleepover at a cool aunt’s house. And in this parallel universe, I am saved from years of anxiety and not-knowing-about-my-body-ness that I’ve dealt with for much of my young adult life (Dear Ohio, Abstinence only education is a public. health. crisis.) thanks to Leah Hayes’s sharp, insightful “handbook for something hard.”
Opening on end papers that are dotted with tampon boxes and maxi pads in a line I can only describe as part diary-level cruddy, part girlish, all beautiful, Hayes transmits medical knowledge about women’s bodies in brief pages where that body is the central guiding force of the visual narrative. This is what Aline Kominsky-Crumb might have made after “Goldie” if her hand hadn’t taken her in stranger directions. Hayes has that same sense of how emotion narrates itself on the body, so the women (or girls, she switches) we follow (one accessing a medical abortion, one surgical) are not just bodies that offer themselves up for medical inquiry, but allow the reader to catch that feeling of the night before, the sitting in the waiting room the day of, and the lying on the couch at home after. While Hayes stresses community (“if you can, the best thing to do first is tell someone in your life who you trust. you don’t need to go through this alone.”), she also speaks to the moments where a girl or woman is inevitably alone during this process, and let’s readers know that this will be o.k., too.
I am learning every day in a million little ways that it is fucking hard to take control of your body, to make choices about it and for it, and so, to all my past, present and future girls: may this be a little fold in the map pointing you towards recovering your body, the one you want for yourself.
xoxo 16-year-old me