Women’s Pantomime by Ben Marcus

BOMB 69 Fall 1999
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The first obstacle to excellence in women’s pantomime is the surplus of small bones in the face, feet, hands, and body. True mime is best done from a near boneless approach, when the flesh can “rubberdog” various facial and postural styles. The kind of mime most often produced by men with a full set of bones (a “stack”), is stiff and lumbering, hardly believable as an imitation of real behavior. There are simply too many non-pliable bones in the body to allow for the covert shapes and postures that lead to useful emotion purges. A woman who tries to mime away her excess emotions while operating with a full stack of bones will find little success. Only a “short stack” mime style can effectively contribute to the quiet heart.

The chief way to determine the gratuitous bone content in the female head (shabble) is to tap its surface with a facial mallet over an extended period of a month or more, using a mallet style more like worrying than actual smashing. Worrying the same area of the head with the mallet will eventually break down the excess bone matter, much of which is at the back or crown of the head, and it will pass naturally from the body, through the tears or saliva or sweat. Any bones that can be shed this way are not important to the life of the body, but are a disposable shell that simply needs to be cracked free and passed.

A small-boned woman who can add at least seven pounds of pure facial weight, without increasing mass to the rest of her body, would not need to remove any bones from her head. The added flesh would be sufficient for even the most elastic of mimes, including the “pancake” and the “puddle” styles. The best way to fatten the face through spot gaining is probably to drink cream at the rate of a gallon a day. Another option is a fat transfer, from a richer area of the body like the thighs or hips. With the fat transfer, the fat is brusquely massaged up the torso, into the head, then tied off with a tourniquet about the neck until the fat “catches” and takes root in the cheeks and around the eyes.

Barring these difficult methods, which only work with the small women, every woman can safely achieve a short stack of bone content by sacrificing several pounds of small bones in the hands and feet, two rib bones, some gratuitous material on and near the spine (flak), the knee caps, and parts of both shoulder blades. The bones, once broken, dislodged, and pulverized, can most safely leave the body from a bone exit zone introduced near the sternum.

Other bone removals are riskier, but the rewards of mime adaptability are all the greater. Removing a portion of the jawbone allows a woman to perform the “hammerhead” mime, good for quieting nearly all of the emotions, but envy in particular. Boneless hands can be pulled into excellent shadow shapes and silhouettes, enabling the “chicken” and the “waterfall.” The armless mimes of Geraldine include the “weather vane” and the “elephant,” not to mention the “sleeveless John Henry.” Since all teeth but the front two are disposable, their removal allows for inner mouth and foreign language mimes that are widely effective with conditions of empathy and awe.

Given this rather dire recommendation for such an excess of self-surgery, it should be cheering to hear that the disposable bones, once broken and dislodged, don’t always have to be removed from the body; they can be migrated under the skin to the belly area, or pushed around into the excess flesh of the buttocks, where they will keep for months, provided the buttocks are regularly massaged and soaked in water. Restoring the bones to their original locations is easy; they can be shuttled through the skin until they arrive at the home area, then a body vice, a so-called Restorer, might be layered underneath a denim body suit for a week or so, until the bones have rooted down again and returned to their former function.

What Do I Do with the Bones after I Remove Them?

If enough hardened bone remains after removal, a behavior whistle, or body flute, should be carved. Music played through an instrument derived from a woman’s own body will tend to calm her feelings, pacify the various rages of the day, and offer a sense of collapsed time, which aids in decreasing attachments and affection for persons or things. The songs from the body flute may also be effective in halting the motion of others, or causing them to sleep or cry or harm themselves, depending on the tune that’s played.

Animal Mimes

It is only natural that miming an animal (slumming) would produce an internal animal state of reduced feelings. Most persons, including women, regularly slum an animal without knowing they are doing so. A basic zoological catalog of actions, such as the Behavior Bible, can be followed by the miming woman (the quiet Gladys) looking to cool down the intensity of her feelings, and these animal actions can more or less be subtly integrated into daily life, appended to the so-called human behavior a woman exhibits, so that basic tasks like walking, swimming, reading, and speaking can be augmented with various animal behaviors: stamping the feet, mewling, scratching, bucking, kicking, lumbering, hissing, skulking in the grass. It will be for each woman to determine which animals offer the behavior models she most needs to eliminate or conceal. There are so many animals in the world now, and the history of behavior has become so vast, that a woman should have no trouble finding a creature that corresponds to her emotion surplus (fiend quotient), but the search for an appropriate animal should very likely begin on the American farm. My animal mime practice centered on a creature known as the horse. The horse postures, stances, and attitudes I pursued—the trot, gallop, canter, feeding from a bag, shaking my “mane,” rearing up with my “hoofs” when I was introduced to people—including an intricate program of neighing, whinnying and snorting, which I deployed orally at every opportunity, until I had successfully and legibly integrated bursts of these noises into my everyday speech so that I appeared merely to be loudly clearing my throat—these horse intrusions required so much attention from me that the result, at the end of the day, was inevitably to leech me of every active feeling I was aware of and thus clean my rioting heart down to the simplest, pumping thing. Indeed perhaps the chief effect of miming an animal is a kind of deep exhaustion not possible otherwise. Just looking at an animal is tiring. Pretending to be one can be fatal.

My earliest memories of my father involve his dog mimes, then later a “wolf” act that became indistinguishable from his real behavior, a kind of addition to his fatherhood that kept him out of doors, knocking about in the yard, hard to please. During his dog phase, in the mornings at our Ohio home, he prowled outside my bedroom door and growled and scratched and barked, sending up moans and howls and threatening sounds, sometimes gnashing his mouth as though he were tearing at a piece of meat. Indeed he often pretended he was eating me. If I went to the door, still cautious and confused from sleep, to determine what was the ruckus, I’d only hear him scamper away and discover in his place nothing but scratch marks and slobber and a strange odor, along with a hard, dark nugget of waste. Upon my return to bed, he’d be back at it, barking his hard, father’s bark and pawing at my door, throwing himself into it, whining.

My mother’s animal of choice appeared to be a creature I could only fathom to be another woman, very much older, probably her own mother, who was stooped and sad and sometimes aimless. It was a quiet mime with only the subtlest style, the most refined behavioral imitation I’ve ever observed, entailing long days of stillness by the window, elegant use of her hands to hide her face, and a deep expulsion of sighs that bordered on language but lacked, always, the requisite shape of the mouth to carve the air into words.


Is There Anything I Should Not Pretend to Do?

Miming an emotion is the most dangerous gestural pretense, for obvious reasons. If an emotional condition is unintentionally mimed, such as weeping, laughing, wincing in fright, doubting, even when done as a joke, as though to suggest: “wouldn’t it be funny if I actually felt something?” the only real antidote can be an extended performance of the “Nothing Mime,” a stationary pose held outdoors for a full day, which requires a woman to do exactly nothing until the mimed emotions begin to subside. The danger of a mimed emotion is that there is very little difference, if any, between pretending to feel something and actually feeling it; in some cases the pretense is even stronger, the imitation cuts deeper and lasts longer. Thus the Nothing Mime, conducted in any weather and deployed with the use of a full-body mood-mitten, which registers a woman’s emotional activity on its surface, is prescribed.

The Thrust Mime

The gestures of intercourse (stitching), when undertaken without another body or prop, are useful in purging feelings of confusion and doubt. If I do not believe I can accomplish a task, performing the thrust mime, an extended stitch and volley, tends to erase my doubt and send me back into my life with renewed commitment. My common stitch occurs with a wide-stance against a waist-high table, one arm crossed behind my back for balance, the other leaning on the table (military push-up style). On the count of three, I begin to thrust, a slow pace at first, smooth and solid, with a striding tilt to my hips, as though I were probing a stiff pudding. I drive deep with arched back and clenched buttocks. At the full thrust position, I “flurry” with short, fast strokes, then pull back and “go long,” slowing the thrust almost to a stop and drawing all the way back (the see saw) ; intermittently, I withdraw and hold a long pause, then “nozzle” at the threshold, which involves rising up and down on my toes (also called Peeking in the Window), before returning to the basic thrust and flurry rhythm, the parry, the dodge, the throw. This style also works over a staircase, though both arms are used for support (the civilian). When practiced against a wall, a shoulder can be relied on for pivoting, with both arms clasped behind the back (the gentleman) . People will naturally have to discover an authentic thrust mime for themselves, based upon the primary gesture that brings about release. They may also employ a Bump coach, if their budget permits it. If the act of thrusting is not the chief sexual gesture, then the mime should be changed accordingly. Knitting and pecking are other useful intercourse paradigms. I have seen women perform the elegant “fade-away jumper” mime, the elaborate “sauté,” the arched mime of “hula hoop,” and the “rise and shine,” a somberly grave sexual style that always saddens me, and I suspect these actions were based on sexual experiences, given the gentle facial tremors I observed and the strained gestures of concentration. There are probably thousands of different ways to mime human intercourse—to stitch the air with one’s hips—not to mention the many animal styles that also have their uses, yet a woman should not be discouraged if her intercourse mode is different or unusual to witness, if it requires a complicated and new physical presentation that might frighten other people who could mistake her stitch for a seizure or rough sleeping. A deceitful, conservative stitch is helpful to no one, nor will anyone be fooled. More and more women, during moments of doubt and confusion, will be pausing in their daily affairs to briefly mime a personalized moment of intercourse, however strenuous and interruptive it might first seem, and thus recover their courage to move about in the world.


The Good-bye Mime

The goodbye mime is probably the most therapeutic behavioral imitation available, yet the very notion of therapy involves a promise of relief, which itself is one of the more stubborn American feelings, and not to be succumbed to, so this form of fake behavior should be treated carefully. If too much “comfort” is derived from performing the good-bye mime, it should be discontinued. In short, the goodbye mime involves constructing non-flesh “enemies” who can be “killed” through mime weaponry, strangling, drowning, and other means decided by the woman “waving” goodbye. The kill function, as a general behavior in this world, is not available to very many persons without legal consequence, yet a certain love reduction can probably only be accomplished through the mimed slaughter of persons orbiting the woman’s life, especially those doing so to an excessive degree, the fathers, the brothers, the so-called lovers, the strangers. A non-flesh duplicate of these enemies, or mannequin equivalents, can be aggressively mistreated by a woman at will—stabbed, shot, punched, and pummeled—and the result is an outrush of attachment sensations (friendliness), which can be the most resistant to emotion flushing. The goodbye mime should be executed at a private “kill site,” where vocalizations may be freely released and a wide cache of weaponry is available. A woman should kill her fathers, brothers, friends, and relevant strangers in this way whenever the trap of devotion begins to feel too real.

In turn, the suicide mime (carpenter), done when a woman’s personal shame volume (PSV) has become overly loud in her body and threatens to produce undesirable acts of contrition and apology, is a useful self-killing mime that, if performed frequently enough and with great gusto, can accelerate the zero heart attempt. In my experience the suicide mime must be “arpeggiated” to work well: I must rapidly fake many suicides, through gunshot, hanging, and knife wounds, miming the actual death moment each time. Women might prefer to “shakespeare” the death moment and draw it out over a full day, while others may find that “cartooning” it is more effective for shame reduction.


The very notion of women’s pantomime is to conduct a life without things, so equipment itself becomes a paradox, and with one or two exceptions should be refused in favor of a pure mime life that could occur anywhere in the world without alteration. Although some women prefer to wear the full-body mood mitten and the empathic storm sock throughout all of their daily activities, I view this choice of attire as an arrogant display of reduced emotions, somewhat too preening and boastful, insulting to those persons who still are addicted to expression and emoting.

Yet one important device is indispensable to the frontier of women’s mime, and that is the body-correction full-length glass, the “Translator,” which serves as a window in front of the miming woman and distorts her actions in various ways: it “janes” her to make her seem more friendly, it “males” her or ages her, it delays her gestures and plays them back later, for behavior festivals, and it creates a mirror template of refined women’s actions, for her to model her body after when she is practicing her behaviors.

Would it hurt if You Mimed your Father?

Miming a member of one’s own family (ambush) can create an interesting behavior-minus that can nearly last forever, particularly if the family can work as a team to mime each other’s behavior (a figure eight), doing so in real time throughout their daily lives, swapping roles during those hard hours between sleep sessions. A camouflage mime occurs when several family members suddenly mime a single person (bullseye), as when parents mime their son, for instance, and do not relent or admit that they are doing so; this is also called over-miming, or “love,” and can cause a very durable behavior-minus in the boy whose behavior is being imitated, particularly if he goes by the name “Ben Marcus”. The over-mime absolves the boy from being himself, given that his behavior is so well covered in the actions of others. He can watch his parents acting as he would, imitating him, until his head and heart become so quiet and small that quite possibly no one in the world can see him, and he can make his exit from all visible life without report.

Ben Marcus is the author of The Age of Wire and String. He lives in Providence.

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Originally published in

BOMB 69, Fall 1999

Featuring interviews with Errol Morris, Peggy Shaw, Laurie Anderson, Carlo Ginzburg, Raymond Pettibon, Judy Pfaff, Mellisa Marks, Edward Said, and Margaret Cezair-Thompson. 

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