(Photograph sent by my mother, with the caption: "In honor of the royals.")
On the day of the royal wedding my mother got up early. She texted me (yes, my mother texted me): She is so beautiful. I texted back: Totally. She texted me: Look at all the hats! I texted back: Totally. Sick of my lack of creative response, my mother texted me a picture of herself, wearing a paper hat I had constructed in kindergarten, to which she had added a birds nest and a feather. She had put a single hydrangea in water, too, and sent me the photo of it with the caption: Never have a bouquet that is bigger than your head. Totally.
(PS: Captioning this photo made me think of a funny pun: RoyalTea!)
written after seeing Alejandro González Iñárritu's Biutiful.
Get into a fight with your boyfriend so you can get into the movies for free. At least it feels like it’s free because you didn’t notice that they took the money. You were in a fight.
In the dark say IM SORRY don’t mean it or do. The movie has bats or moths that rest into the ceiling, sleeping there, flattened. The only person you want to be in the whole movie is one of the moths.
Be a moth and gravitate towards any light you want. Whichever one feels right. Wrong lights, even. Florescent ones, about to burn your wing.
The heaps of trash in the movie. The bodies washing to the shore. You don’t have any problems but you want some. Gravitate towards any problem that you want.
IM SORRY you say but do you mean it. The dark is an easy place to apologize.
You cry only because the microphones are taped to the actor’s chests. When the actors hug each other the microphones get pushed up against their bodies and their hearts beat out into the theater. This is what makes you cry. This only.
Not the cigarettes she sucks on. Not Barcelona’s worst apartments. Not the bodies on the shore, the gas you can smell through the screen, the cancer. Nothing so bad makes a dent anymore. It is the small electronic pulsing that makes you wonder at the fact you are here, sitting in the movie theater, with someone you love so much.
The other night, while acting as wing-woman for a blonder, cuter friend (not that she needed me, her blue eyes were doing quite good work for her), the boy she was working on suddenly turned to me. “You’re so serious!” he said, knotting his eyebrows, maybe in genuine concern or perhaps mocking my own furrowed brow. I had not meant to or known that I was acting or looking serious, and I immediately took offense. Was it my less high-lighted, newly central-parted hair that was doing it? The natural posture of my face (tight lips, a worried forehead)? My outfit: boyish pants, a grayish top, nothing flashy, as had been my M.O. lately? Was it in contrast to my buoyant, fresh-faced friend that I appeared so stern? Or was I actually, as this random tall man-boy proclaimed, so serious?
Now serious is something I have always taken seriously, mostly because of the worry that I, as a woman-person, might not be taken as such. (Seriously, that is.) For as long as I can remember I have been concerned that because I am a) a girl and b) blonde and c) fun I may be dismissed as a) dumb or b) ditzy or c) casual. Yes, casual, the opposite of serious, was something that have I dreaded as a label. But then why was I so offended when being called serious by the man I was wing-manning for? Wasn’t it what I had wanted? Wasn’t seriousness, after all, the female goal of the century? Did it make sense, as displayed by so many woman writers or intellectuals, that if we want to be taken seriously we should behave seriously?
At the un-serious job I have where I work to make money (making money=being taken seriously), I have the good fortune to be able to listen to the radio while I do my editing. I have been listening to everything from news shows to science podcasts to punk music to audio interviews (this is all part of my seriousness campaign: I’ll be able to site these small bits of knowledge in casual conversation later). Many of the interviews I have listened to have been with women writers, as I look to them for bits of writing life wise-ness, hoping, by some osmosis, that I will inherit a little bit of their vigor and intelligence by listening to them. What I have found is a serious conundrum: many women writers, the ones I love at least, sound imposingly, almost forbiddingly serious. Joan Didion speaks as if she’s got nails in her mouth, Lydia Davis sounds like she could use a cup of coffee, and Mary Gaitskill just seems mean. Why do these great women, whose voices sound so poignant on the page, have this commonly strained voice, this only occasional (and also strained) laughter, and a tone that says: don’t fuck with me, I’m smart as a whip and tough as my thickest hard-back volume?
In order to be taken seriously, that’s why. Not that this is a bad thing: the tough, serious woman showing the world that she’s a force to be reckoned with. But it sure doesn’t make you wanna invite them to your birthday party or take them out for a Cosmopolitan. They might scare you, intimidate you, or worse, let down their guard and show you that they’re just as goofy as you are when you get them alone. Either way, my question remains: is it this sense of seriousness that has afforded these women the respect of literary and intellectual communities? And if so, will I need to tighten my mouth a bit more, socialize a little bit less, stay inside a little bit more, smile a little bit less, read a little bit more, talk a little bit less, to afford it for myself? In other words, can I still laugh a lot and still be serious? Let’s hope so, ‘cause its about to be my birthday and I want to have some serious fun.
Thank you ODC for selecting me to attend the Women Who Frame the World Conference next week! I am so excited, especially because my amazing mother and god mother (The Kitchen Sisters) will be presenting, along with my dear friend and mentor Claudia Bernardi, founder of Walls of Hope, professor, writer, and inspiring woman. West Coast women here I come!