I'd never thought much about the statement "better living through chemistry" until recently, when a new witch moved into my commune. She seemed to take the already counterculture-heavy snow globe that is my home -- known as the Witch House House -- and shake it with a spell-driven vigor. She only cooks in cast-iron skillets, heals all ailments internally and externally with herbs and tinctures, meditates regularly, and for a moment, wanted us to cease the use of toilet paper. I freaked the fuck out.
Meanwhile, my existence depends on manic workouts at the gym and a life filled to the brim with Splenda and diet pills, wrapped in stretch pants from Forever 21 and doused in anti-aging products and Aquanet. And, of course, it contained toilet paper. See also: - Dixie Longate packs plastic and bullpucky in Dixie's Tupperware Party - I'm addicted to yoga. What are you on? - Five things I freaking hate about the Oscars -- thanks to the Academy!
In a rush to claim my territory in the commune, I immediately rejected her "weird" lifestyle, deemed it insane, and contemplated moving out. I was not about to have some traveling, pseudo-Burner holistic medicine woman change up the weirdo status quo in my house.
This home has always been an off-kilter (to me) but loving place that acted as a space for band practices, guided chanting and meditation sessions and, often, the setting for the occasional queer workout video rehearsal. But this new, sixth addition to our modest, 1,000-square-foot home had me questioning everything by which I identified myself. She was too different than my norm, and had no problem being 100 percent herself and instituting her rules, regulations and non-chemical cleaning products onto the Witch House House.Radioactivity on my skin? I like that!
She made me feel like a '50s housewife stereotype, bound with devotion to a chemical magic -- whether it was in the form of processed diet food, anti-wrinkle creams or toilet bleach -- and I wasn't going to ever let it all go. This planet-friendly person was upsetting my existence, not to mention my love of bleach. I wanted to be able to curl my hair, microwave a Lean Cuisine and watch Teen Mom 2 while washing my clothes in Tide without feeling like I was doing everything in life wrong, damn it.
I strongly (and bizarrely) desired to keep on loving my chemical lifestyle filled with perfumes and dyes, magical cleansing agents and the romantic notion that food looked exactly like it did on the package when it came out of the microwave (which we no longer have, by the way). I am 32 years old, and there is no way I was going to change the simple things in my life that keep me happy now. I am all about positive changes and bettering myself, but this high-on-a-chemical-beauty diet of a life was not something I needed to fix. It wasn't broken. But one afternoon when my witchiest of roommates wasn't home, I had to peek into her room because I thought I heard something happening within the wall we share (I'm convinced there is a family of squirrels living in our attic, and sometimes I'm positive they are eating through our plaster walls. Because I'm nuts.) What I saw within her humble pocket of this boarding house was a room full of magic: little altars everywhere, strewn with cups of special liquids and surrounded by coins and stones. Feathers were placed strategically along the top of a cabinet of books, and a fur rug covered most of the floor. Her tarot cards and beautifully handwritten tincture labels were placed just so. It was like a secret room of enchanting treasures.
Just on the other side of the wall was my own tangibly created dreamworld of princess accoutrements and lilac- and mint-colored everything. I, too, have a small alter made up of my grandma's cosmetics containers from the '50s, crystals from Sedona, various Catholic tchotchkes and a single naked Kewpie doll. I also have a vanity full of makeup, drag-show posters and stacks of vintage Playboys. My room is just as strange (or not strange) as hers.
As we have continued to cohabitate, I have stopped being so judgmental of her different way of living. I've made some recent changes of my own -- like the attempt to eliminate fake sugar and processed food from my diet -- and started to do something really revolutionary: I listen. Within all of her witchy mysticism that runs far beyond my own comprehension of crystal charging, astrological charts and moon cycles, there is much for me to learn.
The nimble blond medicine woman I live with has absolutely no interest in changing my chemical ways -- she couldn't care less what I put on my face every night (I haven't told her it's Retinol as of late). But she is around whenever I need advice or guidance and gives me special cough remedies made from herbs she grew and dried herself when she was living off the grid somewhere. Basically, all of the judgments I had about my newest witch friend were not only totally unfounded, they were wrong. Because she rules.
I heard her talking today about her dream: to once again live off the land, no electricity or modern "conveniences" crowding her earthen homestead. And she also said she would love to be able to shit in a hole again, free from the clean water-polluting, waste-producing traditions of modern toilet culture.
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And to that I said, "I wish I lived in a hotel."