You Are Now Entering the Zona Rosa
What is the Zona Rosa? And what does it mean? These are the questions people ask me more often than any others. Since we in Zona Rosa were originally four women, getting together to talk about writing and life, on the surface it simply means the "feminine zone." Our name came from a quarter in Mexico City, reminding me when I first heard it of a name for a female rock group. But if you think for a minute, you realize that it indicates more, that the rosa has been a part of us from our beginnings. And if you look inside yourself, at your inner lips or even more intimate parts--as many women did during the '70s--you see that all women are created pink, with a special relationship to that color. "Always wear shades that occur naturally in the body," a makeup artist once advised, and pink is one of those shades, most notably in that organ Eve Ensler enshrined in The Vagina Monologues, and, even in the most repressive of times, through the sensuousness of a pair of full rosy lips, whether assisted or not by Tangee or Revlon. "I was shown around Tutankhamen's tomb in the 1920s. I saw this wonderful pink on the walls and the artifacts. I was so impressed that I vowed to wear it for the rest of my life," wrote mega-romance writer, Barbara Cartland. "Pink is the navy blue of India," declared Diana Vreeland, the famous editor of Vogue, who, when she became blind shortly before her death in 1989, said it was the result of looking at too many beautiful things. I, too, have had a lifelong romance with the terra rosa, just as I have had with experience, knowledge, and the letter Z. Each spring, the city of Savannah, where I live, and which I always describe in my writing as a woman, is blanketed in luscious pink azaleas--and then there are their counterpoints, the pale crape myrtle, the aptly named fuchsia, the roses that live up to their name, the hydrangea turned roseate by a nail judiciously embedded in the soil beneath. In France, cherries are termed cerises, surely a prettier, pinker word. The Zona Rosa is six beautiful midlife women wearing pink ruffled bathing caps, swimming nude in a synchronized flower design in the south of that country. At Codolle, Paris's and perhaps the world's poshest lingerie atelier, proprietor Poupie Codolle has created petale de rose, "the most heavenly pink in the world," according to freelance writer Daisy Garnett, who willingly shelled out over 555 euros (or $629) for a bra made for her in that luxe tint. And isn't the soft pink cheek the part of a baby we want most to touch? Intuitionist Julia Griffin describes the heart chakra as a pink light, exuding beauty and love. Wouldn't Eve--being smart and a woman--have eaten the apple anyway, rosy globe that it was, hanging within easy reach, no matter the price, and even without the snake to egg her on? Pink is the opposite of fundamentalism of any kind, which would outlaw it if it could, and which finds that all the veils in the world can't subdue its charms. Yet there are still those, even among the enlightened, who would keep us naive, fear-bound, innocent of our strength, of our radiance within. "She writes about the labia-pink South," a well-known writer said, quoting a phrase from my work in the Washington Post, forgetting that it was in the rosa that his own book had been nurtured--not to speak of the fact that he, like each of us, slid into this life out from between the slick pink walls of a woman gracious enough to give him birth. For while men may land on the moon, plot new and better ways to destroy one another, and generally strut their stuff, Norman Mailer-style--not admitting for a moment that it is from their feminine side, their anima, that their better books and paintings evolve--it is still up to women to give comfort and life. "Nothing can soothe the soul but the senses," wrote Oscar Wilde, who surely knew, and while other words also denote the salves with which we ease our way--bath, bed, chocolate, silk, scent, fur--it falls to this shade, this vibrant inner passage, to define the ultimate, the primary, in richness, fecundity, pleasure. So what is the Zona Rosa? It is the pièce de résistance, the zone where all things female are not only allowed but prevail; where women tell their truths, truths men beg entry to hear, or at times, simply beg to enter. Or it is as easy, as accessible, as my five-year-old great-niece, Faye, twirling in a pink feather boa, already in possession of her considerable powers. So what does it mean that you are now entering the Zona Rosa? It means Beware, for whether you are man or woman, you are about to be immersed in that region where you will be in danger of seeing in new ways, of looking through rose-colored glasses, even of creating art.
Copyright © 2006 by Rosemary Daniell Rosemary Daniell is the founder and leader of Zona Rosa, a series of creative life-changing writing workshops attended by thousands of women (and the occasional manoccasionally men) over the past 24 twenty-five years. She is the author of The Woman Who Spilled Words All Over Herself, Fatal Flowers,, Sleeping with Soldiers, and, four other works of poetry and prose, and four other books of poetry and prose. She has appeared on many national television and radio shows, has been featured in People and Southern Living, and speaks at writers' conferences around the country. Her awards include the 1999 Palimpsest Prize and two NEA Fellowships. She lives in Savannah, Georgia.