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By Eve Ensler
Published by Ballantine Books on 2018-01-09
A landmark in women’s empowerment—as relevant as ever after a year marked by unprecedented political protest—that honors female sexuality in all its complexity.
“I was worried about vaginas. I was worried about what we think about vaginas, and even more worried that we don’t think about them. . . . So I decided to talk to women about their vaginas, to do vagina interviews, which became vagina monologues. I talked with over two hundred women. I talked to old women, young women, married women, single women, lesbians, college professors, actors, corporate professionals, sex workers, African American women, Hispanic women, Asian American women, Native American women, Caucasian women, Jewish women. At first women were reluctant to talk. They were a little shy. But once they got going, you couldn’t stop them.”
So begins Eve Ensler’s hilarious, eye-opening tour into the last frontier, the forbidden zone at the heart of every woman. Adapted from the award-winning one-woman show that’s rocked audiences around the world, this groundbreaking book gives voice to a chorus of lusty, outrageous, poignant, and thoroughly human stories, transforming the question mark hovering over the female anatomy into a permanent victory sign. With laughter and compassion, Ensler transports her audiences to a world we’ve never dared to know, guaranteeing that no one who reads The Vagina Monologues will ever look at a woman’s body the same way again.
Praise for The Vagina Monologues
“Probably the most important piece of political theater of the last decade.”—The New York Times
“This play changed the world. Seeing it changed my soul. Performing in it changed my life. I am forever indebted to Eve Ensler and the transformative legacy of this play.”—Kerry Washington
“Spellbinding, funny, and almost unbearably moving . . . both a work of art and an incisive piece of cultural history, a poem and a polemic, a performance and a balm and a benediction.”—Variety
“Often wrenching, frequently riotous. . . . Ensler is an impassioned wit.”—Los Angeles Times
“Extraordinary . . . a compelling rhapsody of the female essence.”—Chicago Tribune
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, a M o n o l o g u e , a R a n t , a n d a P r a y e r
Wo o d s o n A f t e r w o r d b y M o n i q u e W i l s o n b a l l a n t i n e b o o k s n e w y o r k
As of the time of initial publication, the URLs displayed in this book link or refer to existing websites on the Internet. Penguin Random House LLC is not responsible for, and should not be deemed to endorse or recommend, any website other than its own or any content available on the Internet (including without limitation at any website, blog page, information page) that is not created by Penguin Random House. 2018 Ballantine Books Trade Paperback Edition Copyright ? 1998, 2008, 2018 by Eve Ensler Foreword copyright ? 2018 by Jacqueline Woodson Afterword and 'Say It, Stage It: V-Day at Twenty? ? 2018 by V-Day All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. Ballantine and the House colophon are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC. Earlier editions of this book were originally published in hardcover in 1998 and 2008 and in trade paperback in 2001 and 2008 in the United States by Villard Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Originally produced by HOME for Contemporary Theatre and Art at HERE, Randy Rollison, artistic director, and Barbara Busackino, producing director, in association with Wendy Evans Joseph. Produced Off-'Broadway by David Stone, Willa Shalit, Nina Essman, Dan Markley/Mike Skipper, and the Araca Group. The introduction by Eve Ensler was originally published as 'Even with a Misogynist Predator-in-Chief, We Will Not be Silenced? in The Guardian, August 23, 2017. library of congress cataloging-in-publication ? ? data Ensler, Eve. The vagina monologues / Eve Ensler p.'? cm. ISBN 978-'0-'399-18009-'? 5 Ebook ISBN 978-? 0- 375-'50658-'1? 1. Monologues.'? 2. Vagina.'? 3. Women. PS3555.N75V3'? 2001 812.54''dc21 00-043844? Printed in the United States of America on acid-? fr ee paper randomhousebooks.com 2 4 6 8 9 7 5 3 1 Book design by Caroline Cunningham
Fo r a l l t h e w o m e n w h o m o a n a n d m a t t e r
ix F O R E W O R D Jacqueline Woodson So needed back then''this book. So needed. Right now''this book. There is a spiritual that begins There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole. There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-'sick soul. For so many of us, coming of age in the fifties, sixties, seventies, and eighties, there were no balms. We moved through the world in our bodies filled with a sense of shame simply by virtue of being born with vagi-
nas and breasts, hips and thighs. We didn't know the extent of the shame''where it had begun, by what grace we had come to know it. After all, hadn't the feminist movement changed the world for women? Hadn't we reclaimed our bodies, ourselves, and moved on? Maybe. But? .' .' . The first time I read The Vagina Monologues, I was in my thirties, new to motherhood, with an infant daughter. The monologues on paper, as they had years before onstage, made me laugh, cry, happy-'dance. But this time, there was something more''they made me think of my own past and my daughter's future. In reading the monologues, I realized that what had been missing from so many of our lives was the conversation and the celebration''the shameless celebration of vaginas and periods, breasts and butts and thighs. I knew that this conversation and celebration were going to be a part of my own daughter's life''and the lives of the many young people I would be a part of helping to raise.
xi F O R E W O R D There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole. The first time I got my period, I wished it away''successfully for another year. As a child I knew it only as 'the curse? and truly felt cursed to suddenly have to deal with my bleeding, my body, the changes to it that were so visible to the world. A generation later, the first time my daughter got her period, she shouted, 'Call the aunties! It's time for a celebration!' Let's keep this conversation and this celebration going on!
xiii I N T R O D U C T I O N T O T H E 2 0 T H A N N I V E R S A R Y E D I T I O N Eve Ensler The first time I ever performed The Vagina Monologues, I was sure somebody would shoot me. It might be hard to believe, but at that time, twenty years ago, no one said the word 'vagina.' Not in schools. Not on TV. Not even at the gynecologist. When mothers bathed their daughters, they referred to their vaginas as 'pookis? or 'poochis? or 'down there.' So when I stood onstage in a tiny theater in downtown Manhattan
xiv to deliver the monologues I had written about vaginas''after interviewing more than two hundred women''it felt as if I were pushing through an invisible barrier and breaching a very deep taboo. But I did not get shot. At the end of each show of The Vagina Monologues there would be long lines of women who wanted to talk to me. At first, I thought they would want to share stories of desire and sexual satisfaction''the focus of a big part of the show. But they were lining up to anxiously tell me how and when they had been raped, or assaulted, or beaten, or molested. I was shocked to see that once the taboo was breached, it released a torrent of memories, anger, and ? sorrow. And then something I could never have expected took place. The show was picked up by women all over the world who wanted to break the silence in their own communities about their bodies and their lives. Memory one. Oklahoma City, the very heart
xv of the Republican heartland. A tiny warehouse. The second night, word has gotten out about the play and there are too many people and not enough seats, so people arrive with their own lawn chairs. I am performing under what is essentially a lightbulb. In the middle of a monologue, there is a great scuttling in the crowd. A young woman has fainted. I stop the play. The audience takes care of the woman, fanning her and getting her water. She stands up and declares what the play has emboldened her to say, for the first time: 'I was raped by my stepfather.' The audience hugs her and holds her as she weeps. Then, at her request, I continue with the show. Memory two. Islamabad, Pakistan. The show is banned. So I attend an underground production of The Vagina Monologues where brave Pakistani actors are performing the play in secret. There are women who have come all the way from Taliban Afghanistan in the audience. Men are not allowed to sit in the audience, but instead sit in the back, behind a white curtain. During
xvi the performance, women cry and laugh so hard their chadors fall off. Memory three. Mostar, Bosnia. The performance is to commemorate the restoration of the Mostar bridge, which was destroyed in the war. The crowd is composed of both Croats and Bosnians, who have been slaughtering one another so recently, and there is tension and uncertainty. Women read a monologue about the rape of women in Bosnia. The audience weeps, wails, screams out. The actors stop. Audience members console one another, hold one another and weep together''Croats holding Bosnians, and vice versa. The play resumes. Memory four. Lansing, Michigan. Lisa Brown, a state representative, is reproached and silenced by the state legislature for using the word 'vagina? in protesting a proposed bill restricting abortion. You are not allowed, she is told, to say that word. Two days later I fly out to Lansing and join Lisa and ten female house members on the steps of the statehouse for an emergency performance of The Vagina Monologues. Close to five
xvii thousand women attend, demanding that our body parts be named and recognized in our own democratic institutions. The taboo is broken. We can speak and be seen. Shortly after the play was launched, with a group of other feminists, I helped form a movement called V'Day, to stand with all the women (cisgender, transgender, and gender-nonconforming, in all our colors) who were carrying out these fights across the world. Since then V'Day activists, through their productions of the monologues, have raised more than $100 million to support centers and shelters for rape and violence survivors, to fund hotlines, to confront rape culture. And now, twenty years later, I wish for nothing more than to be able to say that radical antiracist feminists have won. But patriarchy, alongside white supremacy, is a recurrent virus. It lives dormant in the body politic and is activated by toxic predatory conditions. Certainly in the United States, with an openly racist and misogynist predator in chief, we are in the midst of a massive outbreak. Our job, until a cure is found,
xviii is to create hyperresistant conditions that build our immunity and our courage, making more outbreaks impossible. It starts where The Vagina Monologues, and so many other acts of radical feminist resistance, begin''by speaking out. By saying what we see. By refusing to be silenced. They tried to stop us even saying the names of some of the most precious parts of our bodies. But here's what I learned. If something isn't named, it is not seen, it doesn't exist. Now more than ever, it's time to tell the crucial stories and say the words, whether they're 'vagina,' 'My stepfather raped me,' or 'The president is a predator and a racist.' When you break the silence you realize how many other people were waiting for permission to do the same thing. We''every sort and type of woman, every single one of us, and our vaginas'? will never be silenced again.
n'? i x I n t r o d u c t i o n t o t h e 2 0 t h A n n i v e r s a r y E d i t i o n b y E v e E n s l e r'? x i i i P r e f a c e'? x x i T h e V a g i n a M o n o l o g u e s'? 1 S p o t l i g h t M o n o l o g u e s'? 9 1 V ? D a y'? 1 6 7 S a y I t , S t a g e I t : V ? D a y a t T w e n t y'? 1 6 9 V ? D a y M i s s i o n S t a t e m e n t'? 2 0 9 T h e 1 0 G u i d i n g P r i n c i p l e s o f C i t y o f J o y'? 2 1 1 A f t e r w o r d b y M o n i q u e W i l s o n'? 2 1 3 A c k n o w l e d g m e n t s'? 2 2 9
xxi P R E F A C E 'Vagina.' There, 'I've said it. 'Vagina''said it again. 'I've been saying that word over and over for the last three years. 'I've been saying it in theaters, at colleges, in living rooms, in caf's, at dinner parties, on radio programs all over the country. I would be saying it on TV if someone would let me. I say it one hundred and ? twenty-'eight times every evening I perform my show, The Vagina Monologues, which is based on interviews with a
xxii diverse group of more than two hundred women about their vaginas. I say it in my sleep. I say it because I'm not supposed to say it. I say it because it's an invisible word'a word that stirs up anxiety, awkwardness, contempt, and disgust. I say it because I believe that what we ? don't say we ? don't see, acknowledge, or remember. What we ? don't say becomes a secret, and secrets often create shame and fear and myths. I say it because I want to someday feel comfortable saying it, and not ashamed and guilty. I say it because we ? haven't come up with a word that's more inclusive, that really describes the entire area and all its parts. 'Pussy? is probably a better word, but it has so much baggage connected with it. And besides, I ? don't think most of us have a clear idea of what ? we're talking about when we say 'pussy.' 'Vulva? is a good word; it speaks more specifically, but I 'don't think most of us are clear what the vulva includes. I say 'vagina? because when I started saying it I discovered how fragmented I was, how disP R E F A C E
xxiii connected my body was from my mind. My vagina was something over there, away in the distance. I rarely lived inside it, or even visited. I was busy working, writing; being a mother, a friend. I did not see my vagina as my primary resource, a place of sustenance, humor, and creativity. It was fraught there, full of fear. 'I'd been raped as a little girl, and although ? I'd grown up, and done all the adult things one does with one's vagina, I had never really reentered that part of my body after ? I'd been violated. I had essentially lived most of my life without my motor, my center, my second heart. I say 'vagina? because I want people to respond, and they have. They have tried to censor the word wherever The Vagina Monologues has traveled and in every form of communication: in ads in major newspapers, on tickets sold in department stores, on banners that hang in front of theaters, on box-office phone machines where the voice says only 'Monologues? or 'V. Monologues.' P R E F A C E
xxiv 'Why is this'? I ask. '? 'Vagina? is not a pornographic word; it's actually a medical word, a term for a body part, like 'elbow,' 'hand,' or 'rib.'? ? 'It may not be pornographic,' people say, 'but it's dirty. What if our little daughters were to hear it, what would we tell them'? 'Maybe you could tell them that they have a vagina,' I say. 'If they 'don't already know it. Maybe you could celebrate that.' 'But we ? don't call their vaginas 'vagina,'? ? they say. 'What do you call them'? I ask. And they tell me: 'pooki,' 'poochie,' 'poope,' 'peepe poopelu'? .' .' .''and the list goes on and on. I say 'vagina? because I have read the statistics, and bad things are happening to women's vaginas everywhere: 500,000 women are raped every year in the United States; 100 million women have been genitally mutilated worldwide; and the list goes on and on. I say 'vagina? because I want these bad things to stop. I know they will not stop until we acknowledge that P R E F A C E
xxv ? they're going on, and the only way to make that possible is to enable women to talk without fear of punishment or retribution. It's scary saying the word. 'Vagina.' At first it feels like ? you're crashing through an invisible wall. 'Vagina.' You feel guilty and wrong, as if someone's going to strike you down. Then, after you say the word the hundredth time or the thousandth time, it occurs to you that it's your word, your body, your most essential place. You suddenly realize that all the shame and embarrassment ? you've previously felt saying the word has been a form of silencing your desire, eroding your ambition. Then you begin to say the word more and more. You say it with a kind of passion, a kind of urgency, because you sense that if you stop saying it, the fear will overcome you again and you will fall back into an embarrassed whisper. So you say it everywhere you can, bring it up in every conversation. You're excited about your vagina; you want to study it and explore it and introduce yourself P R E F A C E
xxvi to it, and find out how to listen to it, and give it pleasure, and keep it healthy and wise and strong. You learn how to satisfy yourself and teach your lover how to satisfy you. ? You're aware of your vagina all day, wherever you are'in your car, at the supermarket, at the gym, in the office. 'You're aware of this precious, gorgeous, ? life-'bearing part of you between your legs, and it makes you smile; it makes you proud. And as more women say the word, saying it becomes less of a big deal; it becomes part of our language, part of our lives. Our vaginas become integrated and respected and sacred. They become part of our bodies, connected to our minds, fueling our spirits. And the shame leaves and the violation stops, because vaginas are visible and real, and they are connected to powerful, wise, ? vagina-'talking women. We have a huge journey in front of us. This is the beginning. Here's the place to think about our vaginas, to learn about other P R E F A C E
xxvii women's vaginas, to hear stories and interviews, to answer questions and to ask them. Here's the place to release the myths, shame, and fear. Here's the place to practice saying the word, because, as we know, the word is what propels us and sets us free. 'VAGINA.' P R E F A C E
bet ? you're worried. I was worried. That's why I began this piece. I was worried about vaginas. I was worried about what we think about vaginas, and even more worried that we 'don't think about them. I was worried about my own vagina. It needed a context of other vaginas'? a? community, a culture of vaginas. There's so much darkness and secrecy surrounding them? like the Bermuda Triangle. Nobody ever reports back from there. R
In the first place, it's not so easy even to find your vagina. Women go weeks, months, sometimes years without looking at it. I interviewed a ? high-'powered businesswoman who told me she was too busy; she ? didn't have the time. Looking at your vagina, she said, is a full day's work. You have to get down there on your back in front of a mirror that's standing on its own, 'full-'length preferred. ? You've got to get in the perfect position, with the perfect light, which then is shadowed somehow by the mirror and the angle ? you're at. You get all twisted up. 'You're arching your head up, killing your back. 'You're exhausted by then. She said she ? didn't have the time for that. She was busy. So I decided to talk to women about their vaginas, to do vagina interviews, which became vagina monologues. I talked with over two hundred women. I talked to older women, young women, married women, single women, lesbians, college professors, actors, corporate professionals, sex workers, African American women, Hispanic
women, Asian American women, Native American women, Caucasian women, Jewish women. At first women were reluctant to talk. They were a little shy. But once they got going, you ? couldn't stop them. Women secretly love to talk about their vaginas. They get very excited, mainly because no one's ever asked them before. Let's just start with the word 'vagina.' It sounds like an infection at best, maybe a medical instrument: 'Hurry, Nurse, bring me the vagina.' 'Vagina.' 'Vagina.' ? Doesn't matter how many times you say it, it never sounds like a word you want to say. It's a totally ridiculous, completely unsexy word. If you use it during sex, trying to be politically correct''Darling, could you stroke my vagina'''you kill the act right there. I'm worried about vaginas, what we call them and ? don't call them. In Great Neck, they call it a pussycat. A woman there told me that her mother used to tell her, ? 'Don't wear panties underneath your pajamas, dear; you need to air out your pussycat.' In
Westchester they called it a pooki, in New Jersey a twat. There's 'powderbox,' 'derri're,' a 'poochi,' a 'poopi,' a 'peepe,' a 'poopelu,' a 'poonani,' a 'pal? and a 'piche,' 'toadie,' 'dee dee,' 'nishi,' 'dignity,' 'monkey box,' 'coochi snorcher,' 'cooter,' 'labbe,' 'Gladys Siegelman,' 'VA,' 'wee wee,' 'horsespot,' 'nappy dugout,' 'mongo,' a 'pajama,' 'fannyboo,' 'mushmellow,' a 'ghoulie,' 'possible,' 'tamale,' 'tottita,' 'Connie,' a 'Mimi? in Miami, 'split knish? in Philadelphia, and 'schmende? in the Bronx. I am worried about vaginas.
You cannot love a vagina unless you love hair. Many people do not love hair. My first and only husband hated hair. He said it was cluttered and dirty. He made me shave my vagina. It looked puffy and exposed and like a little girl. This excited him. When he made love to me, my vagina felt the way a beard must feel. It felt good to rub it, and painful. Like scratching a mosquito bite. It felt like it was on fire. There were screaming red
bumps. I refused to shave it again. Then my husband had an affair. When we went to marital therapy, he said he screwed around because I ? wouldn't please him sexually. I 'wouldn't shave my vagina. The therapist had a thick German accent and gasped between sentences to show her empathy. She asked me why I 'didn't want to please my husband. I told her I thought it was weird. I felt little when my hair was gone down there, and I ? couldn't help talking in a baby voice, and the skin got irritated and even calamine lotion ? wouldn't help it. She told me marriage was a compromise. I asked her if shaving my vagina would stop him from screwing around. I asked her if 'she'd had many cases like this before. She said that questions diluted the process. I needed to jump in. She was sure it was a good beginning. This time, when we got home, he got to shave my vagina. It was like a therapy bonus prize. He clipped it a few times, and there was a little blood in the bathtub. He ? didn't even notice it, 'cause he was so happy shaving me. Then, later, when my
husband was pressing against me, I could feel his spiky sharpness sticking into me, my naked puffy vagina. There was no protection. There was no fluff. I realized then that hair is there for a reason'it's the leaf around the flower, the lawn around the house. You have to love hair in order to love the vagina. You 'can't pick the parts you want. And besides, my husband never stopped screwing around.
11 R 'If your vagina got dressed, what would it wear'? A beret. A leather jacket. Silk stockings. Mink. A pink boa. A male tuxedo. Jeans.
12 Something formfitting. Emeralds. An evening gown. Sequins. Armani only. A tutu. ? See-'through black underwear. A taffeta ball gown. Something machine washable. Costume eye mask. Purple velvet pajamas. Angora. A red bow. Ermine and pearls. A large hat full of flowers. A leopard hat. A silk kimono. Glasses. Sweatpants. A tattoo. An electrical shock device to keep unwanted strangers away.
13 High heels. Lace and combat boots. Purple feathers and twigs and shells. Cotton. A pinafore. A bikini. A slicker.
15 'If your vagina could talk, what would it say, in two words'? Slow down. Is that you? Feed me. I want. Yum, yum. Oh, yeah. R
16 Start again. No, over there. Lick me. Stay home. Brave choice. Think again. More, please. Embrace me. Let's play. Don't stop. More, more. Remember me? Come inside. Not yet. Whoah, Mama. Yes yes. Rock me. Enter at your own risk. Oh, God. Thank God. I'm here. Let's go.
17 Let's go. Find me. Thank you. Bonjour. Too hard. ? Don't give up. Where's Brian? That's better. Yes, there. There.
19 T H E F L O O D [Jewish, Queens accent] Down there? I ? haven't been down there since 1953. No, it had nothing to do with Eisenhower. No, no, it's a cellar down there. It's very damp, clammy. You ? don't want to go down there. Trust me. ? You'd get sick. Suffocating. Very nauseating. The smell of the clamminess and the mildew and everything. Whew! Smells unbearable. Gets in your clothes. No, there was no accident down there. It
20 ? didn't blow up or catch on fire or anything. It ? wasn't so dramatic. I mean? .' .' .''well, never mind. No. Never mind. I ? can't talk to you about this. What's a smart girl like you going around talking to old ladies about their ? down-'theres for? We ? didn't do this kind of a thing when I was a girl. What? Jesus, okay. There was this boy, Andy Leftkov. He was cute'well, I thought so. And tall, like me, and I really liked him. He asked me out for a date in his car.' .' .' . I ? can't tell you this. I 'can't do this, talk about down there. You just know it's there. Like the cellar. There's rumbles down there sometimes. You can hear the pipes, and things get caught there, little animals and things, and it gets wet, and sometimes people have to come and plug up the leaks. Otherwise, the door stays closed. You forget about it. I mean, it's part of the house, but you ? don't see it or think about it. It has to be there, though, 'cause every house needs a cellar. Otherwise the bedroom would be in the basement.
21 Oh, Andy, Andy Leftkov. Right. Andy was very ? good-'looking. He was a catch. That's what we called it in my day. We were in his car, a new white Chevy BelAir. I remember thinking that my legs were too long for the seat. I have long legs. They were bumping up against the dashboard. I was looking at my big kneecaps when he just kissed me in this surprisingly 'Take me by control like they do in the movies? kind of way. And I got excited, so excited, and, well, there was a flood down there. I ? couldn't control it. It was like this force of passion, this river of life just flooded out of me, right through my panties, right onto the car seat of his new white Chevy BelAir. It ? wasn't pee and it was smelly'well, frankly, I ? didn't really smell anything at all, but he said, Andy said, that it smelled like sour milk and it was staining his car seat. I was 'a stinky weird girl,' he said. I wanted to explain that his kiss had caught me off guard, that I ? wasn't normally like this. I tried to wipe the flood up with my dress. It was a new yellow primrose dress and it looked so
22 ugly with the flood on it. Andy drove me home and he never, never said another word and when I got out and closed his car door, I closed the whole store. Locked it. Never opened for business again. I dated some after that, but the idea of flooding made me too nervous. I never even got close again. I used to have dreams, crazy dreams. Oh, ? they're dopey. Why? Burt Reynolds. I 'don't know why. He never did much for me in life, but in my dreams? .' .' .''it was always Burt and I. Burt and I. Burt and I. 'We'd be out. Burt and I. It was some restaurant like the kind you see in Atlantic City, all big with chandeliers and stuff and thousands of waiters with vests on. Burt would give this orchid corsage. 'I'd pin it on my blazer. 'me We'd laugh. We were always laughing, Burt and I. Eat shrimp cocktail. Huge shrimp, fabulous shrimp. 'We'd laugh more. We were very happy together. Then 'he'd look into my eyes and pull me to him in the middle of the restaurant'and, just as he was about to kiss me, the room would
23 start to shake, pigeons would fly out from under the table'I 'don't know what those pigeons were doing there'and the flood would come straight from down there. It would pour out of me. It would pour and pour. There would be fish inside it, and little boats, and the whole restaurant would fill with water, and Burt would be standing knee-deep in my flood, looking horribly disappointed in me that 'I'd done it again, horrified as he watched his friends, Dean Martin and the like, swim past us in their tuxedos and evening gowns. I ? don't have those dreams anymore. Not since they took away just about everything connected with down there. Moved out the uterus, the tubes, the whole works. The doctor thought he was being funny. He told me if you ? don't use it, you lose it. But really I found out it was cancer. Everything around it had to go. Who needs it, anyway? Right? Highly overrated. 'I've done other things. I love the dog shows. I sell antiques. What would it wear? What kind of question