waiting for...

At the WACK exhibit there was a video showing of Faith reading this poem. She rocked back and forth as she recited each line. It was incredibly moving.

As she read I realized that I have waited for almost all of these things and some I am still waiting for. Do you think this 'waiting' is simply part of the human condition or is it an experience that is peculiar to women? What, if anything, do you feel that you are "waiting for"?

A Poem by Faith Wilding

Waiting . . . waiting . . . waiting . . .
Waiting for someone to come in
Waiting for someone to hold me
Waiting for someone to feed me
Waiting for someone to change my diaper
Waiting . . .

Waiting to scrawl, to walk, waiting to talk
Waiting to be cuddled
Waiting for someone to take me outside
Waiting for someone to play with me
Waiting for someone to take me outside
Waiting for someone to read to me, dress me, tie my shoes
Waiting for Mommy to brush my hair
Waiting for her to curl my hair
Waiting to wear my frilly dress
Waiting to be a pretty girl
Waiting to grow up
Waiting . . .

Waiting for my breasts to develop
Waiting to wear a bra
Waiting to menstruate
Waiting to read forbidden books
Waiting to stop being clumsy
Waiting to have a good figure
Waiting for my first date
Waiting to have a boyfriend
Waiting to go to a party, to be asked to dance, to dance close
Waiting to be beautiful
Waiting for the secret
Waiting for life to begin
Waiting . . .

Waiting to be somebody
Waiting to wear makeup
Waiting for my pimples to go away
Waiting to wear lipstick, to wear high heels and stockings
Waiting to get dressed up, to shave my legs
Waiting to be pretty
Waiting . . .

Waiting for him to notice me, to call me
Waiting for him to ask me out
Waiting for him to pay attention to me
Waiting for him to fall in love with me
Waiting for him to kiss me, touch me, touch my breasts
Waiting for him to pass my house
Waiting for him to tell me I’m beautiful
Waiting for him to ask me to go steady
Waiting to neck, to make out, waiting to go all the way
Waiting to smoke, to drink, to stay out late
Waiting to be a woman
Waiting . . .

Waiting for my great love
Waiting for the perfect man
Waiting for Mr. Right
Waiting . . .

Waiting to get married
Waiting for my wedding day
Waiting for my wedding night
Waiting for sex
Waiting for him to make the first move
Waiting for him to excite me
Waiting for him to give me pleasure
Waiting for him to give me an orgasm
Waiting . . .

Waiting for him to come home, to fill my time
Waiting . . .

Waiting for my baby to come
Waiting for my belly to swell
Waiting for my breasts to fill with milk
Waiting to feel my baby move
Waiting for my legs to stop swelling
Waiting for the first contractions
Waiting for the contractions to end
Waiting for the head to emerge
Waiting for the first scream, the afterbirth
Waiting to hold my baby
Waiting for my baby to suck my milk
Waiting for my baby to stop crying
Waiting for my baby to sleep through the night
Waiting for my breasts to dry up
Waiting to get my figure back, for the stretch marks to go away
Waiting for some time to myself
Waiting to be beautiful again
Waiting for my child to go to school
Waiting for life to begin again
Waiting . . .

Waiting for my children to come home from school
Waiting for them to grow up, to leave home
Waiting to be myself
Waiting for excitement
Waiting for him to tell me something interesting, to ask me how I feel
Waiting for him to stop being crabby, reach for my hand, kiss me good morning
Waiting for fulfillment
Waiting for the children to marry
Waiting for something to happen
Waiting . . .

Waiting to lose weight
Waiting for the first gray hair
Waiting for menopause
Waiting to grow wise
Waiting . . .

Waiting for my body to break down, to get ugly
Waiting for my flesh to sag
Waiting for my breasts to shrivel up
Waiting for a visit from my children, for letters
Waiting for my friends to die
Waiting for my husband to die
Waiting . . .

Waiting to get sick
Waiting for things to get better
Waiting for winter to end
Waiting for the mirror to tell me that I’m old
Waiting for a good bowel movement
Waiting for the pain to go away
Waiting for the struggle to end
Waiting for release
Waiting for morning
Waiting for the end of the day
Waiting for sleep
Waiting . . .

“Waiting” was performed at Womanhouse in Los Angeles sponsored by the Feminist Art Program, California Institute of the Arts.


Deborah said...

I'm going to use this in one of my introductory "Women and Literature" classes next fall. Merci!

Brooke said...

I didn't see the actual video of this one, but I saw the text hung with a photo on the wall. I actually stopped reading it because I afraid I'd start sobbing.

But I think everyone is waiting for something. It seems like a very universal experience to me. I wonder what a male version of the poem would look like. Anyone want to try?

jana said...

Or how about a version with some additions for a Mormon woman? How different would it be than for a generic woman?

Do you think the 'waiting' paradigm works for men? Or would there be some better phrase (like duty or something like that?)

jana said...

Brooke: I felt tears welling up as I saw the performance, too.

I think I identify so much with the feminism of the 70s-80s because it's not only the X2 generation, but it's also highly relevant to my experience as a Mormon woman. I waited for so many of these things, especially as I waited for 'the one' to adore me. And then continued 'waiting' through my childbearing years--feeling my own life always on hold as I responded to the stages and crises of everyone else in my life. Sigh.

Deborah said...

I wonder if "searching" (or "looking") would be a better paradigm for a male version of this. Searching/waiting would certainly fit archetypally. And can't searching feel an awful lot like waiting -- especially if you don't know precisely what you are looking for?

It's a riveting poem. I'm curious to see how high school senior girls react -- and what verb they would choose in its stead to reflect their experience.

In terms of marriage and children, we almost impose this "sacred" waiting on women -- waiting for people to get married so that they can be viewed as "fully adult," waiting for them to have children so that we can view a marriage as "real family."

I understand this poem, am moved by this poem -- but I also rebel against it. It feels as suffocating as Chopin's "Story of an Hour."

John White said...

There's lots about boys growing into manhood which is waiting.

Caroline said...

I was also struck by this poem at the exhibit.

A Mormon woman waiting poem would be interesting... but I don't know how different it would be from this one. This one beautifully encapsulates the traditional woman's life - and in so doing fits nicely into a Mormon paradigm.

Though perhaps one could add some lines about waiting for a husband to come home from bishopric meetings, waiting for a husband to treat her like an equal partner, waiting for a son to go on a mission, waiting for a daughter to get married in the temple, waiting for a chance to have a voice in the Church....

Anonymous said...

It is a lovely poem. I view all of this "waiting" as a problem to some extent. I don''t want to wait, I want to be happy with now. Perhaps this is why I am drawn to Buddhist thought lately. Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.

Téa said...


cchrissyy said...

Wish i could watch it performed- I'm out of luck, right?

jana said...

The WACK exhibit in LA has closed, but you might be able to find a copy of the video through a university library. I was disappointed to find that it's not on youtube. :(