Saltiness Restored

written on 02 November 2020 by Joann Renee Boswell

Art by Nat Iwata

“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.” —Matthew 5:13 (NRSV)

lick me
I am stone
found worthy only in stillness

maracas abundant,
burlesque told don’t
look back. your future is fictile.

shackled by fear
these salty ladies freeze
pillar-wives of Lot

my shakers are shapely
smooth curves
warm to the touch

Shakira takes chisel
stifled shimmy revives
we join J Lo

shake it all out
these centuries of underwire,
long underwear, bloomers,

layering modesty panels,
board shorts and baggy T-shirts over
one-piece bathing suits

halftime social media aftermath trampling
deepens my sparkles
gyrating eternally into freedom

I was sitting on the pew of my Quaker meeting the Sunday after the Super Bowl (the American football championship) listening to a message on the passage referenced here about salt losing its saltiness. I thought about the modern meaning of being “salty”. In contemporary settings, if someone is said to be salty, it can mean that they’ve had a sudden change of mood or that they are annoyed, irritated, or hostile.

The half-time show of the Super Bowl is always dramatic. As a teen and young adult, I would tune in just for the half-time show. But in Christian circles much was disparaged when it came to the lyrics, the rhythm, the dancing, and particularly what the women on stage wore. We were discouraged from watching. Encouraged to be modest young women. Young women who shouldn’t go swimming at summer camp without extra layers on top of swimsuits. Young women who shouldn’t wear “revealing” clothing. Young women who shouldn’t remind men that we have breasts by letting our bra straps ever show. Heaven forbid they remember boobs!

The years have drifted me further and further from this conservative view of women, where we are responsible to prevent men from lust. And as I have grown and become a mother, I have embraced my femininity more and more. I celebrate my curves. I dance. I’m less afraid of bra straps and more afraid of being shut up.

So when Jennifer Lopez (aka J-Lo) and Shakira took the stage at the Super Bowl in early 2020, it was a proud moment for women and for Latinx people. Do you know J-Lo is 50? What a celebration of humanity! Of femininity! Of dance! And then I started to see the response from the religious conservatives who I remain friends with on social media. They were appalled. They were horrified. So much skin. So much sexuality. And as an adult my response was laughter. I am no longer chained by these anti-feminist views. But I was also annoyed, irritated, salty. My children watched me dance more to Lizzo and Shakira and J-Lo in the week that followed. I shook it all loose. I showed my children, including my son, that it is a wonderful thing to enjoy and move the bodies that were created for us. I am teaching them, and myself, that we don’t need to fear our own beauty.