#iamsubject project – Becoming Desiree

Becoming Desiree

by Jessica Guica

There is irony in our identity. Disconnect occurs between the ‘self’ we desire to be and the self we’ve created when we hand our power over to others. A long time ago – or life ago – I made a break from the self I had created. It became a break-through. But, like I said, there is irony that swirls around us and our identity in ways we cannot always predict. Through the madness, pain, and abuse, I had managed to find myself via the creation of a woman within me when I, Jessica, just wasn’t strong enough to do it in namesake. This alter-ego was able to harness a power that would crescendo into empowerment in the least likely of places. Stigma be damned, twisted and set free, we thrived. She was the self I desired to be. She was my strength. She brought me back – my lovely bitch, Desiree.

‘Desiree’ sounded sexy and innocent at the same time. The way the last syllable ‘raay’ strokes the air for a moment too long like a lingering kiss. Innocent because it was the same name given my baby cousin brought into the harsh light of this world a few years before. Yes, it sounded like a woman who wouldn’t be afraid to get undressed with the lights on and could choose carefully who she would undress for and when. No, she wouldn’t be afraid of anything or anyone. Desiree was someone impervious to pain, yet strong enough to inflict it upon others should the situation require it. She was a woman different than Jessica, who was passive and tolerant. Someone less familiar than Jessica, but much like a child you would adopt and make your own, nonetheless.

It’s Desiree. I’ve decided.

“Umm…Desiree.” My voice broke, simultaneously releasing me from Jessica and her weaknesses. A clean and jarring break occurred allowing me to embody Desiree completely without assigning her Jessica’s myriad of shortcomings.

“Okaay. How the hell do you spell that?” Manager held the pen stiff, hovered over his desk calendar cramped with names crossed out and written on top of each other and crossed out again, mixed in between circular coffee stains.

“It’s D-e-s-i-r.-e-e with a slash over the Es.”

“A slash over the…fuck the slash…can you do a Tuesday and Saturday shift seven to close?”

“Yeah, sure, definitely…seven to close…when is close?”

Manager sighed into his bloated chest and pushed back his metal chair not minding the scraping sound across the concrete floor of the office. His eyes easily and unapologetically surveyed my body up and down and up again.

“Last call is at two, though we set all the clocks ahead in the club… it’ll be 1:45 cause we wanna get the fuck outta here, ya know?…don’t forget to confirm the night before, got it?”

“Okay, yes, I have the number…definitely, I’ll definitely confirm…thanks….thanks a lot.”


Speakers vibrated with the intro guitar solo of Motley Crue’s “Wild Side,” and I knew my music beckoned. I was late for my set. I was late. I was always fucking late. But I couldn’t get out there yet, the process wasn’t complete.

“Desiree, you’re fucking late!” the intercom yelled into the dressing room. I had to pick up beige concealer on the way to work, a mask for the premature bags under my eyes. And so what, I was always late. It was the process, the necessary process, the lugging of the bag, adjusting of the eyes from natural light to black lights on walls without windows, the costume adjusting, hair curling and heel strapping with a quick shot in the mirror at those lips. The mirror hundreds of girls have kissed a rainbow around it like a frame immortalizing the unique shapes of their lips when puckered, some oval and full, some wide and open, a few thin and held together.

I pulled in my own lips, rubbing them against each other a few times, deepening the burgundy pigment. My song was on the chorus now. Desiree…I was ready and walked with loud clicks that competed with the pounding drums of the music.

Desiree walked on stage, prepared to take back my power the way Jessica couldn’t, with a body I had never owned. Empowered by the choice to place her body, as much of it as she wanted, when she wanted, where she wanted, exemplified her newfound ownership of it shamelessly exposed – if not by any other way – set by set, dollar by dollar.


Diane DeBella

As a writer, teacher, and speaker Diane has spent over twenty years examining women’s issues. She is the author of the collective memoir *I Am Subject: Sharing Our Truths to Reclaim Our Selves*, and editor of the anthology *I Am Subject Stories: Women Awakening*. As a long-time faculty member at the University of Colorado, she received the CU Women Who Make a Difference Award and the CU-LEAD Alliance Faculty Appreciation Award. Through her organization I Am Subject, Diane helps us understand how we—as women—are impacted by the society in which we live. By claiming ourselves as subjects of our own lives, we become empowered and also provide strong role models for other women and girls. In healing ourselves we help others—a beautiful way for women to create nurturing, supportive communities.

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