Hello! I’m Savala — a writer, lawyer and mother; a woman of color, wife, ex-dieter, and a Californian who has lived in New York City, Italy, and Detroit, too.

I and my work are in/on Forbes, NPR, the Nation, BUST, the SF Chronicle, A Practical Wedding, the Equals Record, the Detroit Free Press, and more.

I explore intersections and liminal spaces around bodies, race, gender and modern life. This is my sketchbook. Sometimes I post drafts because reading them “in public” helps me write. And, I should say, I speak only for myself.

Join my mailing list if you’d like to receive fresh writing now and then (maybe once a month).

Have a good one,

Savala

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Little Satin Bomber Body (or, Relics and Dreams from YoYo Land)

I still remember my cropped bomber jacket, thin black satin with a silver zipper, more of a blouse than a coat.  I found it at that vintage shop on Broadway, the one near where Claire Danes grocery shopped, by that club on a cobbled side street where everyone did lines at last call.  I remember shrugging a much smaller me into this jacket, little shoulders, little waist. When I zipped it, the hem hugged me just below my ribs--and it felt good to know my limit, where my body ended, and that it ended at all.  I remember how my boobs looked in the satin bomber, bright and young, no bra or shirt, and the zipper undone half way.

I remember the whole outfit the first time I wore the jacket: juniors’ section Levi’s with tiger stripes of indigo across my hips.  Silver d’orsay pumps, Manolo-looking but cheap, with a costume brooch at the toes. My hair parted in the middle, straight, and long to my elbows.  The fat guy at Mo’ Betta salon said, “Mmmm! that’s a lot of natural hair, girl,” as he slid the stinking flat iron down my tawny strands.

We took a photo that night, me and my girlfriends, with a roll-of-film-camera, arms around each other in our East Village dorm, getting ready to give Manhattan a sexy, joyful kind of hell while our roommates and their friends settled in on the couch for a long night of weed.  (One of the friends was a blond actor with a beauty mark above his lip. He was in pizza commercials that were the early-oughts equivalent of a meme. He came over sometimes to buy weed, and I was determined to hook up with him. Eventually I sort of did, planting a series of muddled kisses on his lips during Eighties Night at Don Hill.  His eyes were heavy-lidded as he clomped a slow, indifferent hand onto my chest. I doubt I felt anything at all.)

That night, I in my little satin bomber and cheap heels, we stood outside a bar on East-something, feeling giddy, fully grown, inevitable; it was the kind of night when New York is the city you came looking for, you’re on the verge of everything exciting (love, fame), and no cars drive down the block so it feels like a movie set, and you’re happily conscious of how you look in the streetlight, you and the boys and girls around you, drunk and exhaling Marlboro Red o’s, flush with immortality.

This guy Connor I’d known for a while nodded at my half-down zipper and, with cool, understated appreciation, said, “That’s nice.”  I grinned and looked down. “What, this?” I said. He nodded, crushing ice cubes in his teeth. “Just sexy enough,” he said. We never hooked up, he and I.  

When I developed the photos from that night, I was excited to see my collar bones lifting up and away! and my arms, even in the jacket, were lanky as a boy’s. Those body parts were my test: collarbones and arms.  (My goal: late-90s Gwen Stefani, with her chest tucked in, upper back a little rounded, and her clavicle and shoulders jutting out with insouciant innocence—“What? Who, me?”)  Some nights, I used sable eyeshadow to draw those bones out more.

(Back in Manhattan, I met Mira late at the Vietnamese restaurant where she hosted and got us all free drinks.  I wore a white wisp of a bra from the Gap, those Levis, and a wife-beater. I outed my collar bones and let my arms dangle a bit.  Catching my reflection behind the bar, I said, “Oh my god, look at my arms.” Mira said, “I know, you look great.” I said, “I’m really doing this.”  Mira swigged her cocktail. “I know,” she said, “You look great.”)

I still think about the black satin bomber body and that New York City year, my thinnest ever.  It didn’t last (who can subsist on aerosol whipped cream and sliced turkey?). But I always believed I’d get back to those skinny times, and so I carried the bomber, suitcase to closet, New York to DC to Italy to Oakland to Wine Country, undergrad to first job, last job to grad school.  I put it on periodically to check how I was doing—fat, thin, fat, thin, two-sided like the chaos-control Kandinsky.

(“What makes it exceptional is that Kandinsky painted on either side of the canvas in two radically different styles. One wild and vivid, the other sombre and geometric.” /  “We flip it around for variety. Chaos, control. Chaos, control. You like? You like?” (from Six Degrees of Separation))

Kendall finally said, “Aw, give it to Goodwill for some skinny kid to wear.”  We were old enough to think of the people we’d been as kids.

It was hard to throw the jacket away.  It didn’t exactly spark joy, but it was pure potential. Eventually, while stuffing a trash bag with spring cleaning, I tossed in the silk bomber.  It sat on top, then I knotted the bag, and then it was gone.

I still sometimes dream of a different body.  In the future, I imagine family and friends applauding me when I’m thin again.  Good job! They’ll say.  Wow! Great job!  I imagine walking to the stage for graduation, where I give remarks, up the steps and to the podium, and the audience noticing how slim I am.  I imagine my colleagues nodding with approval when I’m no longer fat, when I’ve finally gotten rid of that thing. Like a long mullet, or a ratty fur jacket, or sneakers with separating soles.  I put pictures up from thinner days so when people visit they know that I used to be thin.

Not long ago, my godfather sat me down.  He said, “It took you a year to gain weight and have your daughter.  It’s been a year since she was born, and it seems you ought to be losing it now.”  We were having breakfast at the little cafe he likes, near the golf club, strong coffee and good avocado with the omelettes. I smiled brightly, imagining pinning my cheeks up, Lillian Gish-like.  I said, “Yes, that’s true, and I’m going to get back into taking care of myself.” “Good!” he said, that settled.

Telling him that I’d stopped dieting—I’m determined never to go back—was impossible.  I don’t diet anymore, Papa Mac, so I may never lose weight.  He wouldn’t understand any more than I understand, really, a white woman Trump voter.  Which is to say, this vivid, prismatic Pangea I’ve discovered outside the cave, this crew of renegade women in the wilderness, building big fires and stone cairns and hollering at the moon, jumping the outline of mountains and laughing in the rivers, who’ve felt liberation, who’ve sucked it into themselves and blown it back out with the blast of fog horns, who’ve dug pitch-black graves and dropped the jangling ropes of dieting into them, and pissed on them, who are fat and happy, doing just fine… This place is illegible to him; and sometimes to me, though I live there now, fat as a motherfucker, or at least I live close enough to smell the smoke from their campfires and see the firelight through the pines, and to hear them calling Over here! Come on! every day and night.


I Couldn't See What Dieting Cost Me Until I Gave It Up

Fat in Ways White Girls Won't Understand