Thursday, June 24, 2010

Women My Age

Here is a poem-like production of my daily writing.

Women my age
Are untapped repositories of what not to do,
Who not to trust, how not to give yourself away like that.
Furious bundles of what circumstance has made them
And why they shouldn't be blamed for how things turned out.
It's really someone else's fault.
Her parents, who praised her only for her people-pleasing skills,
Her ex-husband, drat him to hell, who made her open up
And expose herself only to laugh in her face at her weakness.
The selfish people she works with who don't understand
How much she has already suffered without having to put up with
Their irresponsibility, their cubicle shenanigans, their laziness.
They are outraged at being demoted to mere wallpaper on
The backdrops of someone else's drama.
First it was their mother's saga,
Now it is their hugely entitled and whiny children's.
They are relegated to crazy first-wife status,
The reason that playboy-wannabe was out of there.
Their priceless advice is floating freely everywhere
But not the ears to hear it with.

I have more of these, and nowhere to put them.
Is it a poem?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Expecting Perfection

So here I am reading along in Dispatches from a Not-So-Perfect Life, by Faulkner Fox and chuckling, especially at the part early on where she wants to devise a pie chart of her unhappiness as a mother with young children and I'm fine with her going to therapy to try to find some answers, interested in her feeling that the therapist seemed to be trying to catch her in some lie, in the therapist's assumption when she said she was a writer that she was delusional, in her assessment that she wanted what men had: the right to keep doing her own work when the husband and kids walk in the room.
I thought, "Here is a woman who who has faced some of the same challenges I have and can write in a witty way about what she thinks and and understands of these events and feelings," and then I get to the beginning of the next chapter. "I began to fantasize about being in a house with a man and a child when I was 23." (p. 15) What had been flat terrain between me and Faulkner Fox began to have ankle-high hurdles that it was not impossible for me to step over, but I was going to be more skeptical. By page 28 (page 28!) when she mentions the herb garden in the back yard where "we buried our sons' placentas" she had lost me. The hurdles were now neck high and I put down the book and considered whether to keep reading. I haven't yet.
Faulkner Fox. Who names a little baby girl Faulkner? You've got to be kidding me. And if it wasn't her parents, if she chose it for herself, it's even weirder.
It annoys me that the only books about such topics are regularly written by the people who have even fewer ideas than I do about how to get on with life in our new century, people whose fantasies don't rise above some Lifetime Channel fuzzy-focus poster, people who incorporate other cultures' traditions willy-nilly in some bid for multi-cultural inclusiveness, or just have no clue what's important, so try to do everything they're vaguely drawn to aesthetically. I'm expecting feng shui if I do pick up the book later.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


You know, you think you have some kind of control over your own identity, but you don't. You think if you dress a certain way or act a certain way, flip your hair back and laugh toward the ceiling, people will believe you are carefree and charming, but you may be fooling yourself. They may not think that at all.
I wake up every day and assemble my uniform, take a pair of pants from pile A and a shirt from pile B. I don't spend a lot of time working out what each combination says about me, I don't want to use my time in that way. I just want to be comfortable and not have to think too hard about which shirt goes with which pants. I wasted and was forced to waste too much time on that pursuit in my youth. And I didn't even succeed all that well according to the photos taken at that time, so I'll be damned if I'm going to waste any more of my time on that stuff now. I don't wear make-up or pluck my eyebrows. My graying hair is short and finger-styled every day or two. I'm completely aware that this combination of visuals screams LESBIAN! to those for whom pigeonholes were invented. Clearly I'm not primping in the way that is usually used to signal sexual availability to men, so voila! that must mean the other thing. The either/or of linear thinking.
You may think your intelligence shines through your eyes, that your every gesture denotes a grace and ease of living in this world without a crippling sense of how other people see and perceive your persona. You may think that, but in thinking that you are more self-conscious and posing than you'd like to believe. Your capris and goofy bumper sandals proclaim you as a member of the soccer mom league whether you like it or not. Out in public with your child, your IQ takes several undeserved hits only because in deferring to another's needs, you can not project your own personality strongly enough to have it maintain any shape at all.
And there you are, staring out of the wrong pigeonhole.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Genetics of Hypercritical Visual Distinction-Making

Let me explain. My family prides itself on its talents in aesthetics.
My grandma told me while eating cantaloupe that this one wasn't quite as good as the one she'd had about five years before. That had been the best muskmelon she'd ever eaten. I had to admire her perseverance. She was 93 at the time and still finding her opinions of produce fascinating and noteworthy.
My mother never enters my house without pointing out what needs work. That front bannister is loose; that's dangerous, I should get that fixed. Above the toilet is a patch of bubbled paint where a leak upstairs soaked through. I should call the landlord. Those concrete steps in the back are a disgrace. Call the landlord. That path to the garage (that I don't use, because we don't have a car) is uneven, somebody could trip and sprain their ankle. I should get that seen to.
Yup. I should. I actually have called the landlord. But that doesn't get it taken care of. Plenty of advice from homeowners that doesn't really translate for us renters. I can see it too. Don't remind me.
When I visit my mother's house, I also notice things. Little nests of my dad's body hair drifting into the corners of the bathroom. Dust built up behind decorative Buddha heads on the dressers. A certain proliferation of chicken-themed pottery in the kitchen. Balled up tissues crammed down the sides of the recliners. But I figure they know this and don't need to be reminded that all of us can see these transgressions against operating room cleanliness, perfect home maintenance. I try to ignore the nests and the dust, I scoop out the tissues and toss them in the trash without comment. If they don't see those flaws, they're lucky. If they do, they know they're there, they don't need me to point them out and make them feel bad about not being more on top of it.
People-watching with my mom is an unending episode of "What Not to Wear." Other people's houses (probably including mine) are full of decorating faux pas. There is no accounting for other people outside our family's bad taste. Even within the family, my mother would maintain that her version of the family aesthetic is the best. For years, I agreed with her when pressed for my opinion. I was constantly being drawn away from my examination of human evil (The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Andersonville, All Quiet on the Western Front) to weigh in on whether these candles matched that tablecloth. And it was true. In the set of our tribe's interior design, my mother's was preferable to all the others. But, No. 1: I don't care that much about it, not enough to spend time or money on my own decor, and No. 2: if I did, I'd choose a palette less pastel-oriented and far less flowery. But I don't care.
And I don't want any chickens.