"From stone to stone..."

musings on Uncut Gems and bodies

content warnings: general body/feeling uncomfortable with bodies/tinged with dysphoria talk, very mild Uncut Gems spoilers (no “big reveal” type stuff)

It’s been a rough week. I had a scare; I’m absolutely okay, but left with a feeling of helplessness. Of my body being yet again commandeered.

Despite all my whining and jokes (?) about not wanting a body, I don’t buy into dualism. Plenty of doctors and therapists have shown the intrinsic ties between what happens in our brains and what happens to our bodies and vice versa.

But unfortunately knowing something rationally doesn’t calm the anxiety I have around bodies, and mine in particular. It’s a thing. I’m in it. There are some things I can change about it; there are plenty I can’t. It is a vessel I feel no formal control over. It often feels less like a vessel and more like an adversary.

I watched Uncut Gems last night. As the title indicates, it’s a movie circling something inherently solid, immovable - these gems aren’t cut! Delicate, precious black opals lodged in a rock, never transitioned to cabochons or put in a giant ring setting. The opals will not move, despite their parent rock exchanging hands.

Similarly there are a couple of scenes with groups of men stuck between two locked doors (a safety feature in the tucked away independent jewelry store), unable to escape the bullet proof glass around them, anxious to be out of the tiny, enclosed space.

The rest of the movie, however, is bodies in motion. Howard, a NYC jeweler and owner of the opals, barrels unceasingly to the inevitable end of the film. He arrives in one place, he’s already exiting towards the next, and probably throwing a punch then regretting it along the way.

We see Kevin Garnett (playing himself) on TV mid-game almost as much as we see him with Howard. Stepping back for a shot. Taking deep breathes as he misses and hits free throws. Giving a post-game interview. He reads clearly as an athlete at home in his body and he’s in control in a way Howard can’t and isn’t trying to be. Howard flails, KG leans.

But KG often seems unwieldy in context of the opals. Breaking the glass of a jewelry case as he leans, losing himself in the fire of the opal. Looking absolutely lost on the court without it. Sitting in a chair, knees spread to keep them from folding into his chest, questioning the morals of Howard’s attainment of this particular rock. Gripping it tightly in both hands in the locker room, like a kid strangling a toy as they pray for something they want with all their being. With their whole mind and body.

It’s probably simplistic and self-absorbed to compare my mind to uncut opals and my body to their parent rock. Their prison rock. Or to think of myself as KG, gripping tightly to what I perceive to be the essence of my power. Mostly I’m just Howard, unable to control my limbs and functions and reactions and diseases. (I mean, hopefully minus all the jerk tendencies.)

What am I even trying to say here? I guess:

  1. Watch Uncut Gems

  2. Adam Sandler and Kevin Garnett are great actors

  3. Stop telling people to just love their bodies as if anything could ever be that simple

  4. Take care of yourself, kids

Image description: a screen shot from Uncut Gems. Kevin Garnett leans on a jewelry case, holding a loupe and staring into an uncut opal. Adam Sandler watches him from behind the case, and Lakeith Stanfield stands beside Kevin, looking at the opal.

Britt A Willis writes this newsletter and is a playwright, game writer, and designer in Washington, DC. You can find out more about their work at brittawillis.com or follow them on Twitter @feelingfickle.