The Life of the City

A man in my writer’s group often makes the comment that the rough draft of my second memoir could use more plot.  Writing a memoir is a long process of layering, of recalling memories that are revived through old journal entries.  By the end of the process, there is always a plot, but never it seems, before the final draft.

It made me think of all my favorite books.  They don’t follow a traditional narrative arc, but they do capture life itself – ‘Post Office’ by Charles Bukowski, or any book by Henry Miller, for example.

In real life, plot does not take the same shape as in a novel.  It only exists as something to be noticed from many years past.  It’s a narrative device to hold the reader’s interest, a method of pacing and cliffhangers.  In life, we are not aware of the plot until we have reached an entirely different evolution of self.

My second book is difficult to build since it captures the time I spent living in Hoboken, NJ/New York City.  There were always a million things happening at once, much more than what should be captured on the page.  In a three year span I was a poet, a belly dancer, a singer/songwriter on the mandolin, a percussionist in a bossa nova band, a hostess at a popular restaurant, a literary agent, an artist’s assistant for someone famous, a pool player, a coffee drinker, a groupie, and a mad downer of whisky.  I was out every night, and working every day.  Many universes collided, which is part of the fun, and exactly what made it so fascinating to live through.

In New York, the parallel life shifted between being very poor, while often being among the extremely rich.  Within my tribe there was a great deal of tension within the “us verses them”.  We despised the rich.  Abused them if they came within our dive bar territory.  And yet, we often depended on the rich to get by.  To play those games, you had to pretend to be someone you weren’t.  There was a massive growing process that took place within that struggle, and a process of letting go.

This week I read Ernest Hemingway’s mostly memoir ‘A Moveable Feast’.  It’s the first book by Hemingway that I have ever enjoyed, and I’m surprised that I gave him another chance.  I never lose faith in him, though I don’t like any of his novels (minimalism, no adjectives, run-on sentences, bare expanses, macho posturing).

Of ‘A Moveable Feast’ Hemingway writes, “If the reader prefers, this book may be regarded as fiction.  But there is always the chance that such a book of fiction may throw some light on what has been written as fact.”

Is there a plot in this book?  Of course not.  It’s a love letter to Paris and his time spent with Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the love he shared with his first wife Hadley, and their baby, Bumby (including Bumby’s babysitter, a cat named F. Puss).

Hemingway makes Fitzgerald sound like a tiresome alcoholic with a cuckold for a wife; Zelda, a wife jealous of her husband’s talent who makes him drink to distract him from his craft; Stein, an egomaniac with no patience for women other than Alice.  To get through it all, Hemingway drinks plenty of whiskies with soda and lemon juice (a delicious drink).  And then, just when you feel he’s really had enough, supreme, in all of this, is the joy of being a writer in a city like Paris.

“The blue-backed notebooks, the two pencils and the pencil sharpener (a pocket knife was too wasteful), the marble-topped tables, the smell of early morning, sweeping out and mopping, and luck were all you needed (Hemingway, 91).”

By the end of the book, you feel the sadness that Hemingway experienced at the loss of this world he inhabited, and his young family.  The rich were drawn to his success and left him feeling empty.  Other women drew him away from Hadley and filled him with regret.  But in the end, there was always Paris.

“We always returned to it no matter who we were or how it was changed or with what difficulties, or ease, it could be reached.  Paris was always worth it and you received return for whatever you brought to it.  But this is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy (Hemingway, 211).”

In ‘A Moveable Feast’ the place becomes the plot.  No matter how many people pass through, or how quickly they appear and then disappear.  This is the life of the city: a constant rotation of people and experiences that you should never expect to last.  But it’s beautiful while you are at the center, watching the menagerie orbit around you.

Fear Of Being Exposed

I am in the final stages before releasing my memoir, and for a few weeks there, I dealt with a paralyzing fear.  All I could think about are the attacks people will make on my character (though I’ve been attacked by readers before, on numerous occasions).   Or the ways in which certain people in the book will feel misrepresented or insulted (though I did my best to tell my story as it actually happened).

I listened to my dad telling stories about my sister and I over family dinner, and realized how unique each of our stories and perceptions really are.  He had no recollection of what we were really going through at different stages of our lives.  A bitter drink turned sweet with distance.  In fact, everyone from my youth has little idea of the double life I lived, now captured in my book.

“The risk is fearsome: in making your real work you hand the audience the power to deny the understanding you seek; you hand them the power to say, “you’re not like us; you’re weird; you’re crazy (Bayles, Orland, 39).”

In all truth, I prefer people that I don’t know at all to read my work, rather than people who know me.  It’s okay for a stranger to not like it, or not get it, but when it’s your friend, it means that they don’t really get you at all.

In the midst of my publishing fear phase, a friend leant me the book “Art & Fear – Observations On The Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking”.  As soon as I began reading it, my fear subsided.  I was able to fully focus again on the process of making art, rather than fearing the result of my art.  And I remembered how amazing it is to be where I am at, and see that the creation of this book all happened through mad stubborn persistence, diligence, pain, tears, upheaval, countless rewrites, and that fleeting feeling of triumph.

“Basically, those who continue to make art are those who have learned how to continue – or more precisely, have learned how to not quit (Bayles, Orland, 9).”

In the beginning, I imagined I would write a novel.  My boyfriend at the time so fascinated me that I had to capture him with words.  I thought it would just be a story of him, but it grew and grew into a whole community.  How I got there, what I was searching for, and how it all ended up.  In the end, it was not really about him or them at all.  It was about me.

I thought it would be finished in 1-2 years.  It would be published by a major with a huge book advance, become a best seller, and I would receive a movie deal within the year (how wonderful it is to be naïve and clueless).  As I slugged away at horrible jobs that paid practically nothing, this image of the victorious author got me through the worst.

Then there was the issue, that in my twenties I partied so hard and lived so much to the fullest (which makes for much of my subject matter), that it was hard to find time and a morning without a hangover to write.  But no matter.  I still lugged my computer to the coffee shop when I could, on my one day off from work a week.  Eventually, even in the early morning hours.

“To the artist, art is a verb (Bayles, Orland, 90).”

Bit by bit the pieces grew organically, and came to fit together.  The book started as a third person novel, then a novel in the 1st person, then with voices of two other characters thrown in.  Finally, three years ago, I was able to find the courage to admit that it is a memoir.  But I would not have had the guts to say what I did, if it hadn’t started out as fiction.  I also wouldn’t have come to know the other characters so well without that extra exploration.  Did I mention that I began writing this book in 2002?

“The artists life is frustrating not because the passage is slow, but because he imagines it to be fast (Bayle, Orland, 17).”

It still amazes me that I have not given up.  But on the other hand, it doesn’t amaze me at all, because I had no other choice.  I couldn’t release it from my brain until it was all written down.  And when it was finally done, it lifted like magic, and I was free of it.

I am at an age now, where the idealism begins to fade away.  I’ve watched plenty of friends give up their craft for stability.  Life is hard.  Most artists don’t survive as artists once they leave the supportive community of school.  After that, it’s just you and your art, and good luck getting people to care about what you do.  Your friends are not necessarily your fans.

Facing the fact that my book will be available to the public, I wonder how my life will change.  I will do everything I can to see that it’s successful, but there is the fear that it won’t sell.  I won’t know until I take that risk.  And whatever happens, it will still be a foundation that I can build from.

Years ago, a friend of mine read several chapters.  Paul was a young techie nerd, who was bored with life, and struggling to find social skills.  He kept talking to me about one of the main characters: a binging, partying, player who puts on a debonair act.  He became obsessed with this guy.  It didn’t take long before he was turning into him.

Suddenly, Paul was out every single night, getting wasted, and hounding women wherever he went.  In a bizarre turn of events, he married an older woman within three months of meeting her.  But he continued to go out every night, and slurred to me that he wasn’t sure how he’d gotten sucked into the institution.

At one point, he had been my best friend.  But soon, it was too embarrassing to go anywhere with him.  He was rude to bartenders who were my friends.  He was loud and obnoxious, trying to see how many curse words he could fit into one sentence.  He went from being madly intelligent and witty, to talking in circles without making any sense.  It was like watching Truman Capote’s downfall.

Was it the book?  Or was it because he also had feelings for me?  Or maybe, I was not responsible at all, and he was just on that course looking for an avenue to go down.  I don’t know.  But it was a disturbing realization that the book might be a little dangerous for the slightly unstable.

“Artmaking grants access to worlds that may be dangerous, sacred, forbidden, seductive, or all of the above.  It grants access to worlds you may otherwise never fully engage (Bayle, Orland, 108).”

I hope that my memoir shows that the world is never exactly as we are told it is, and it is up to each of us to find out for ourselves.  Every person has the right to be an adventurer, an explorer of life.  To Think for themselves.

Of course, it is dangerous to really live.  To take chances, and be open to people who are different from ourselves.  But it’s the only way to find out who we really are.  If we live in fear, we’ll remain in a bubble where nothing really happens, and nothing can really grow.

“Insist that the world must always remain x, and x is indeed exactly what you’ll get (Bayles, Orland, 111-112).”

I am excited, that soon, with the book release, my life will open up to new possibilities.  It will be out there, speaking for me, doing the work that I put into it for a decade of my life.  I will keep you all updated when it is released.

Do any of you have book release experiences to share?  Was it uplifting?  Did it feel like a let down?  Did it open your life up to new things?  Please share.

 

 

 

 

Breaking the Myth of Purity

As a young adult, my entire worldview was shaped by Fundamentalism.  But everywhere I looked within the church, I saw that what was being preached, didn’t measure up.  Pastor after pastor took a “fall,” usually of a sexual nature.  My own “fall” was the best thing that ever happened to me.  Unfortunately for the pastors, they lost their jobs, and sometimes their families.

See Me Naked – Stories of Sexual Exile in American Christianity by Amy Frykholm, was not the book that I thought it was going to be, but it was valuable all the same.  No one interviewed for the book was actually tossed out of the church or excommunicated for their sexual sin.  Yet I hear those stories all the time, particularly at creepy Mars Hill church down the street; the very last church I attended.  Pastor Mark is such a misogynist power tripper that his downfall is bound to happen any day now.

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Amy makes brief mention of the infamous Ted Haggard (mega pastor who was ousted for his secret homosexual life), then dives in to everyday people who have come to terms with bridging the gap between their sexuality and their faith.  Throughout the book, however, the interviews are tinged with a bias.  Frykholm is Episcopalian, by far my favorite Christian denomination for its all-inclusive, caring for the community spirit.  But one can’t help but feel proselytized to from the standpoint of her beliefs.  Impossible not to, I know.  Just as when I share my own belief system (Atheism), Christians tend to feel attacked or even threatened, with knowing remarks about how someday I’ll “see the light.”

While reading See Me Naked, I recognized my own path in many of the stories, though my journey had a much different outcome.

“The message she heard from every corner was: you do not belong to yourself.  You are not your own.  You belong to us and you will do what we say (Frykholm, 80).”

I remember when all of my words were bottled up inside me, held back, weighing me down.  I constantly had questions.  All through my first twenty years, I wanted to challenge what I was being told.  But if I challenged it, I would be seen as a failure.  And a person who questions the word of God is weak.

I didn’t feel strong, I felt diminutive, as though my unspoken words would swallow me up into nonbeing.  I walked through life like a ghost – not speaking, not touched, not known.

“He had “given a piece of his heart to all of them” and therefore did not have a whole heart to give to his bride.  In this conception, purity is a finite, all too easily expendable quantity (Frykholm, 108).”

The word “purity” has no meaning for me.  When I hear that word, it does not go beyond the age of twelve.  I see a child.  As an adult, purity has no value.  It means purely free of personality and life.  It signifies a person not fully formed.  Someone with little understanding of the complexity of human relationships, and how much we can learn and grow from a love that is not finite but expands and grows.  The highest value is in maturity, wisdom, and intelligence.  People who can offer these three things have value that does not flit away, unlike the fleeting “purity.”  Of course, it’s also wrapped up in the idea of innocent youth, and in an over-thirty something, “purity” is a train wreck of desperation.

For Christians on the marriage track, the fantasized about future will surely disappoint them once they are wed.  In the courtship phase, moments that should be filled with intense pleasure and enjoyment, are instead replaced with the constant danger of falling over a cliff into a deep ravine of insatiable pleasure.  Danger.  Mistakes.  Regret.  No going back.  Every touch is quantified and measured.  And if the couple slips and falls, then one has “used” the other, selfishness has entered the game, bodies are “objectified.”

I use quotes here for all the words that fail to play a role in my vocabulary.  Coming to a different worldview, has also meant coming to a new language.  When I talk to my family, I listen to the ways in which we speak two different languages, and I feel the pain of a disconnect.

Purity is a pleasure to sully.  Humans have enjoyed this sport since the beginning of time.  In cultures around the world, the male pursuit of purity has imprisoned women in unhappy marriages, subservience, and shame.  By ridding culture of virgin worship, we come to a place of equality for both men and women.

“Many of the people I interviewed for this book grew up with the idea that, if they made one mistake, they would fall into doom and misery.  Sexual mistakes had the most dire consequences.  Thus, sexuality became ensconced in fear – fear of being found out, fear of being truly known, fear of failing.  Yet nearly everyone I interviewed had found a way through fear and found their deepest intimacy with God in their capacity for wonder (Frykholm, 173).”

When I was twenty-one and had sex for the first time, it took a year’s worth of therapy to get over the discovery of who I really was beneath the Christian veneer.  The therapists didn’t do much beyond just allowing me to voice my own honesty for the first time.

With that honesty, I began to feel brave, and shared my poetry with classmates.  Through writing, I broached the pain of feeling that all of my life, I had been lied to.  It was obvious to me, that the body and sex and all of our five senses are not selfish and depraved, but immensely beautiful and giving.  I never really knew how to love until that year.  My awakening to empathy is intrinsically linked with pen and paper, and the need to write.

“If we pay very close attention, I think we will find that the pleasures of excess, hedonism, and self-indulgence are thin.  Deeper, wider, more lasting pleasures are available as we grow more attentive to and more comfortable in our own skins, and as we give up the notion that pleasure is inherently selfish (Frykholm, 176).”

Frykholm offers no remedy for the conflict between church and sexuality.  A difficult quandary when people are living ancient tribal beliefs in the literal sense.  The church would like people to think that they have no control over themselves.  The taboos loom larger than they really should be.  They are afraid of what they don’t know.  If you are afraid of something, maybe you should try it.  It’s the key to understanding your fears.

Dosing Freud

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While reading, Dora – A Headcase, by Lidia Yuknavitch, I became one with a character I would not exactly identify with in real life – a wacked out teenaged nightmare.  I attended Lidia’s reading a few months ago, where she explained that Dora was based off of a case study by Freud.  His patient Ida (given the pseudonym Dora in his publication) was diagnosed with Hysteria due to her symptom of Aphonia (loss of voice).  Ida’s father was having an affair with Frau K, and Herr K had made advances on Ida.  Freud was certain that Ida had secret wishes to be fully seduced by Herr K, but in actuality, her desires revolved around Frau K.  His misplacement of Ida’s desires, and her abrupt exit from their therapy sessions caused him to conclude that he had failed her.

Lidia read about Ida in college, and the story stayed with her for years.  Dora – A Headcase follows a similar plotline, though it is based in modern day Seattle with a few guerilla filmmaking joyrides thrown in.

To be honest, there were a few Seattle details that were slightly off, and I had to suspend my disbelief.  For example, there is no 7-Eleven downtown, not until you get to lower Queen Anne.  There is also no Shari’s restaurant, only in the suburbs.  And a high-rise condo on Capitol Hill was not quite believable since there are no buildings in my neighborhood over eight stories high.  But this is fiction, after all, and I have too much pride in my city.

“You know what?  Seventeen in no place to be.  You want to get out, you want to shake off a self like old dead skin.  You want to take how things are and chuck it like a rock.  You pierce your face or you tattoo your skin – anything to feel something beyond the numb of home (27, Yuknavitch).”

I remember this feeling distinctly.  Hell, I have even felt this as an adult.  When I was seventeen, I felt trapped in a life that wasn’t my own – it was my parent’s.  Everything in me was pulsing, charging, held back in a cage that made me want to implode.  All day long in high school, I was force-fed a bunch of crap that had no use in everyday life (I was right about that one).  At night I numbed myself on episodes of Oprah Winfrey, and tried to sneak in MTV when my parents weren’t looking.  And then I’d find something like A Clockwork Orange – a movie that so disturbed me it pretty much changed my life.

I was banned from the macabre, the dark side, the body, the taboo.  But in order to understand all of life, you need to be given more than just a window with a view.

At the time, my experience, my education, was all within film and television.  Nothing was happening in my life.  You could sum up non-existent dramas in your head (as teenagers do), but they never played out.  I’d be lucky if a crush talked to me just once a year.  I was in the dork’s club.  And my only outlet was art.

“You know, when you can’t talk, talking sounds different.  Everyone sounds like a soundtrack of talking instead of like people…  like they are on a stage and you are in the audience – and all of their voices suddenly sound…  like art.  It’s comforting (121, Yuknavitch).”

Ida aka Dora runs amok.  She does everything I wish I’d had the balls to do when I was a teenager, and am glad that I didn’t.  As she finds a way to dose her therapist Siggy with an almost lethal dose of Viagra and Cocaine (his drug of choice, of course), it’s cringe-worthy.  He just wants to help her, yet she does everything she can to rage against him.  Siggy is just another cage that she wants to climb out of.

From there, the book becomes a wild roller coaster.  Around every chapter there’s a fresh twist of “oh shit.”  What is distinctly missing is high school.  But it goes unnoticed, the way that a lack of parents in brat pack movies goes unnoticed.

What becomes obvious is just how much Yuknavitch enjoys her craft.  You can see her laughing with glee in a room somewhere as she comes up with these crazy teen lingo sentences, putting herself in a tailspin of writer frenzy.

Like Dora I had no voice.  I went through long periods of time never talking, just observing life floating by.  People could shout at me, pinch me, push me, and I would still say nothing.  I was a voyeur of life, not a participator. Everyday I wanted to die.  I wanted to feel something and then have it all be over for good.

As I age life becomes more vital.  All of that creative energy was untamed back then, and yes you could say I had Hysteria, because sex brought me to life.  Now my days are pure expression.  I don’t want to die before I’ve sent all of my art out into the world where it can domino into someone else’s experience of pure, beautiful life.  The greatest gift is to be told that my writing has given others a voice.

Clits Up!

A year ago I went to Susie Bright’s reading for her memoir, Big Sex Little Death.  She signed my copy “Lauren, Clits up!  Susie Bright.”  She told some interesting stories about traveling through the country on her book tour while I sat wondering what the Puritans would think about her book title – if you have big sex, there’s bound to be a little death, or maybe even a lot.

“One brother killing his other half, his soul mate, was sensational enough – but add “hardcore” to it, and it was as if everyone in the sexual counterculture were on trial.

Reporters called me: “Did you see it coming?  Were you pressured?  Were you afraid?  Did you get high with them, take it up the ass before the guns came out? Their questions were crazy because they all assumed that sex had led to violence.  Not despair, not religion, not the empty bottle of abandonment (Bright, 303).”

Artie had been on a violent binge, and Jim shot him – the Mitchell brothers behind the famous O’Farrell theater strip club in San Francisco where Susie’s friends worked.

In life, there is death.  The religious right would have us believe that death equals sin.  But all of life is merely a cycle that our egos strain against.

In the same way, movements are born and then die.  Manifestos have flaws, so we build off the old to create the new, hopefully improved, trains of thought.

Susie Bright has been at the forefront of movements in our history – grabbing life by the balls since she was a teenager running rampant in the Communist party.  She was attacked, dodged bullets, and sacrificed her individuality for the cause.  But amidst a shift, she was accused of betrayal and kicked out, most likely for not being a drone.

Several years later, she was influential in forming the lesbian erotic magazine, On Our Backs, with a group of strippers.  For years they struggled to stay afloat amidst political battles of the Andrea Dworkin/Catherine MacKinnon variety.  At that point, many feminists were joining with the religious right in the fight for anti-pornography laws, and the magazine found more support from gay culture.

“We were too obscene to glue together.  All of us, the women in erotica and in sex education, ended up paying what amounted to enormous bribes to be printed at all.  And the printer’s risk?  Zero.  The U.S. attorney general’s office, to this very day, has the same attitude toward women’s sexual potential as that held by the Victorians: They really don’t believe lesbians have sex (Bright, 259).”

Blatant, in your face, unapologetic women who don’t need the male gaze to feel beautiful or sexual is apparently, a frightening thing.  The women at the magazine received death threats and accusations of every variety.  Eventually, the pressure to stay afloat amidst so much opposition and lack of funding literally broke the magazine’s back.  Susie’s life reached another movement, that of motherhood, teaching, writing, and sunshine in Santa Cruz.

“I had to Protect the Baby, but I ended up Protecting Me…  Malingerers, fakers, and self-destructive impulses were red-tagged and booted (Bright, 287).”

I am not a mother, but I relate to this feeling from my experience of being a wife.  Through my husband’s love for me, I came to love myself in a new light, and suddenly had no patience for the crazies, the neurotics, or the people who take me down a notch for no reason.  As I became aware of someone else’s needs, I became more aware of my own.  Love transformed, turning the past into stories, rather than painful emotional ties.

Like Susie, I have that desire to capture my personal history and encapsulate it – not only because it tells of my life, but also because it celebrates the people I have known, the cities I lived in that have changed since then, the zeitgeist that is no longer.  We have all evolved, and it’s one of the reasons why we need to write it all down, or paint it, or film it, or photograph it – so we can remember how far we’ve come, and see more clearly, where we are going.

 

Being A Woman Artist

Photo by James Arzente

 

““You don’t really want to be a poet.  First of all, if you’re a woman, you have to be three times as good as any of the men.  Secondly, you have to fuck everyone.  And thirdly, you have to be dead.” – a male poet, in conversation (Jong, 43)”

I recommend the poem that follows in Erica Jong’s book of poems, Fruits and Vegetables, first published in 1968.

The other day a photographer, James Arzente, came to my apartment to photograph me for a book he’s doing on artists and writers.  After a long email dialogue, we came up with a concept, and piled all of the physical remains of what it took to write my memoir (piles of notepads filled with chicken scratch, journals, photographs, music, books, costumes, pens, mementos, and postcards) onto the kitchen table.  The photographer wanted to get at what’s inside my head, and I pulled out as much physical evidence as I could possibly find, but it wasn’t even the half of it.

He pried further and further to figure out what makes me tick.  On one hand, it made me understand the intensity of what it must feel like to be a celebrity.  On the other, I was exhausted by it, and exhausted of being the sole focus.  I grew sick of myself, ill with the knowledge of my current unsatisfactory state.

“You will never really be understood,” he said, “And you have to be okay with that.”

We talked about what it means to be a woman and a writer.  I want to celebrate my womanhood, but being female has always felt like a strike against me.  I’m working through it, towards a love and acceptance of my own gender.  It’s difficult when I’ve been attacked for being a woman, not only by strangers, but also by friends and lovers.  My healing comes from strong female role models, who repair me through their wisdom and our shared stories.

“Who do you feel you are on the inside?” James asked me.

“I feel like an outlaw.  I feel like I’m fighting against the roles prescribed for me by others.  I feel invisible.  I’m in a chrysalis phase, and working non-stop to create my body of work.  It’s killing me that my book isn’t out there yet, when I have so much more to give.  I’m waiting for recognition, when in my mind, I am already known for what I do.  In reality, I’m a drifter that no one really knows all that well.”

The truth is, I feel more like a Hunter S. Thompson, a Henry Miller, a Charles Bukowski, a Norman Mailer than a woman.  None of my heroes understood women at all, and didn’t care to understand.  But women inspired their stories.  They almost had an unhealthy worship of the women that castrated them in a sense.  Scared to death of the great goddess that might reach up and snuff them out.

Right now, at the Seattle Art Museum, the Elles exhibit of twentieth century women artists, is here from the Pompidou in Paris.  Everyone seems to have a strong opinion about the show.  Some are angry over the feeling that women’s art is segregated.  Some felt it was too political.  Some were disturbed by the empty pockets of history, where women really weren’t allowed to fully partake, as in the Bauhaus movement.

For me, I found the exhibit to be enormously invigorating, and at times disturbing.  Throughout history, women have been told that their life should be a sacrifice for the family.  In much of the art, I found that same sense of sacrifice, but it was an angry outcry against prescribed roles.  A gigantic woven bee hive/cocoon – enormous and frightening, like death hanging from a hook in the ceiling.  A film of a naked carefree woman on the beach, hula hooping with barbed wire, each turn ripping her abdomen to shreds.  Marina Abramavic’s performance piece, “I must be beautiful, I must be beautiful, art must be beautiful,” as she rips at her scalp with a brush.

Grouping all of this art together is enormously satisfying and powerful.  It tells a narrative, fighting to redefine what it means to be a woman, determined to have equality and a voice.

“To create is an act of liberation and every day this need for liberation comes back to me.” – Louise Bourgeois

I think as well, it would be impossible for the art to not be political.  In an article by Robin Held in City Arts Magazine she states, “Only 5 percent of the art on display in U.S. museums is made by women, although 51 percent of U.S. visual artists today are women.”  And this is the current state of the art world.  Just today I walked through the art section at a bookstore, and the only female artist I saw on the shelves, was Georgia O’Keefe.  I never even noticed the disparity before.

All this week, I have been enmeshed in talks with women artists on how they feel about the exhibit, and how they feel about their role in art today.  The women of the sixties and seventies had a lot of wisdom and history to offer.  One woman spoke of how she couldn’t sign her real name to a piece, because if they knew she was a woman, she wouldn’t get a show.  She used her initials instead.  To be a success, she had to deny the feminine.  But now, because of political battles that have been won, she is free to sign her real name, and wears her womanhood like a badge of honor.

Strikingly, the women of my generation said that they don’t identify as women.  One felt that anything written before 1980 was a “dinosaur text.”  They were firmly planted in the here and now, living dangerously outside the context of history.  I sensed abhorrence within them of their femaleness.  The same abhorrence that existed in society in the 1950’s, when my mother was raised to think that being a woman made her unclean – doomed to keep cleaning, just to make up for it.  Back then, household appliances were sold as devices to cure psychological ailments.

Young women artists want to shed their femaleness like a dead skin.  And then they are shocked when those issues subconsciously come out in their art.  One was disturbed when people found the feminine in her art.  It made her angry. She might clothe herself with male-dominated activities to feel stronger, but she is still facing the unavoidable fact of her existence as a woman.

This same aversion to the female, I believe, has created a large disconnect among young women.  I know I am at a difficult stage of life for female friendships – babies, work, lack of money, flakiness, geographical distance.  But even so, all of the women I know look at each other with a deep sense of mistrust until proven otherwise.  I am just as guilty as everyone else, and I’ve practically given up.  Yet when I do find that closeness with other women, I find my confidence blossoms.

Women seem to feel sick of the issue of equality, and what that means.  The issue has always been there, and it’s not going away anytime soon.  It’s a constant struggle.  And if we let go of it, there are plenty of men waiting in the wings to take back their control over our bodies.  If your own body makes you ill, and you want to avoid it, then why not hand over the control?

In the young women, I saw myself, and I didn’t like what I saw.  This week has changed me.  I want to embrace who I am within this body within this world.  But I also demand that society embrace my mind even more than the visual elements that I might express.  Yes, I am a woman, but first and foremost, I am a human being.

The Birth Of Frankenstein

I had a dream the other night, that I was one of three siblings.  One sibling had stripped our father of his skin to see how we are made.  He was laid out on a gurney, and we looked at the red layers of muscle, studying how they fold and overlap.

Our father was invincible and extremely angry.  Maybe it was the process we had put him through, or maybe he was that way before, but he was insane and out to get us.  Wherever we went, he followed – all over the world.  We were on the run, and the situation was dire.  We couldn’t kill the father, because the father was within all of us.  But he was out to destroy what he had made.

You could make some religious allusions to all of this symbolism, or you could say that this is nature.  I did not play myself in the dream, and the father and siblings were not my own.

The imagery stems from a slide show that Camille Paglia displayed in her talk last week at the library, of Leonardo Da Vinci’s private notebooks.  In it, he studied the structure of muscles, and a fetus inside a dissected womb.  If anyone had found out, at the time, that he was dissecting cadavers, the church would have severely punished him for it, maybe even put him to death.  The drawings give us a sense that he is looking at things he should not be seeing.

This week, I read Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley.  I love her for being such an emancipated woman, born to radical parents in 1797.  Frankenstein is not my kind of book.  I only read it because it was on a list of the greatest books ever written, and it’s so obviously influenced our culture, where science (or philosophy as it was called in Shelley’s day) can go too far, producing something gruesome and disastrous.

“So much has been done, exclaimed the soul of Frankenstein – more, far more, will I achieve; treading in the steps already marked.  I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation (Shelly, 33).”

But once Frankenstein achieves his obsession, he is horrified as the creature takes its first breath.  He realizes his mistake and deserts the monster.  But after a series of murders of all those closest to Frankenstein, the creature gets a chance to tell his story.  He began his life with love, but everyone he met hated and reviled him, turning his pain into a need for revenge.

Around the time that the novel was written, Mary had lost her first baby and had just given birth to a second, named William.  Her half-sister committed suicide, and her partner, Percy Shelley, still had a wife who drowned herself in the Serpentine.  Mary then lost a third child.  After the novel was finished, she lost her son William, gave birth to Percy Florence who survived, and had a dangerous miscarriage after that.  In the summer of 1822, Percy, her partner, drowned with two friends in a storm off the coast of Pisa.  The badly decomposed bodies were burned, but Percy’s heart was removed and eventually buried in Rome.  Mary was only twenty-five.

Reading her story in the introduction was much more horrific than the ghost story she wrote while summering with Percy and Lord Byron.  The natural reaction, especially with losing a child, is to think at first that they will come back to life.

I edited a novel once, where a mother lost her baby and couldn’t let go of the little corpse.  It had to be pried away from her.  The writer was Australian, and was certain that American audiences wouldn’t be able to handle it, since in our culture we choose to be so far removed from death and dying.

Becoming a mother is to also face the possibility of ultimate loss – the chance of miscarriage, the chance of failing to protect your child from a world that is full of struggle, disease, and danger.  For Shelley, bringing a corpse-like creature to life is the ultimate revenge against nature that takes away.

My strange dream of the father stripped of his skin reminds me of seeing the Bodies Exhibit.  All those parts that make a whole, the muscles and organs frozen in time, not quite life-like in their preserved state, but disturbing because they were alive once, now frozen in space, dead, and there for our voyeuristic fascination.

In an art class, the students were told to spend twenty minutes drawing my head, and twenty minutes drawing a skull placed directly behind me.  They moved in a circle alternating between death and life.  For some reason, that day, all the students drew me to look much older than I am.  I looked decrepit, as they over-emphasized the sagging lines of my face.  I wished I had never looked.

I have reached that age, my thirties, where you begin to realize that you’re never going backwards.   The physical body has changed its chemistry completely.  I’ll never be tiny and thin again, my metabolism has slowed down, my liver throws back all the toxins I send its way, my immune system is sensitive to any disturbance.

But beyond my body, I’ve grown much stronger.  My spirit feels invincible, unbreakable, my sense of discipline is becoming as solid as a rock, and nothing but my body slowly breaking down, could ever stop me at this point.  It’s not quite as much fun as being young, dumb, and out of control, but this is the season for building my life.  Knowing how quickly it all passes, I push harder each day to express in words and art the things that make us feel alive and well.

My Life As An Art Model

You may remember that I wrote a post a while back about making my living as an Art Model.  I’ve been modeling now for the past eighteen months, and I actually receive more work than I can handle.  It’s strange that all of my previous jobs gave me anxiety, but for some reason being naked on a stage in front of twenty people totally relaxes me.  I feel safe up there, in the artist’s appreciation and quiet meditation on the human form.

Last Sunday night I went to my first studio as an artist.  I actually felt nervous to be crossing over to the other side.  Drawing was an awkward struggle, and I wanted to loosen up my hand.  The model was beautiful, and it was torture attempting to draw her perfect lines.  She is much shorter and curvier than I am, so it was difficult for me to get her proportions just right.  But now, I am hooked.

In high school and early college, I thought that I would be an artist.  I was selling paintings and winning contests, and the head of the art department was upset when I decided not to major in art.  I thought the fashion business could be a more dependable income, but the industry wasn’t for me.  Instead, writing chose me, and since college, I’ve worked to support my craft.  But I’ve never stopped doing little art projects here and there.

As an Art Model, I rarely meet people outside of the art world that can really comprehend what I do.  The job makes my family slightly uncomfortable, and they don’t want to see the art that comes out of my collaboration with the artist, at least not the figure studies.  My dad even just asked me, “Are you still doing that?”  This after I told him that I’m booked solid through January.

At a party last summer I told an acquaintance that figure artists are often able to sell their work to wineries since wineries want to be aligned with European tastes.  The woman replied, “Oh great, then your friends will see you naked!”

If that bothered me, I wouldn’t be doing this.  Most funny, is that she tends to hang out with the sex-positive crowd, and you would think she would be more relaxed.

My liberal friend from my conservative college days responded by saying, “Oh, I see you’re still objectifying yourself.”

It gave me meditation on the word ‘objectify’ – a word that does not take place within, but without, a choice of the viewer, and not the viewed.

 Definition of OBJECTIFY

1: to treat as an object or cause to have objective reality

2: to give expression to (as an abstract notion, feeling, or ideal) in a form that can be experienced by others <it is the essence of the fairy tale to objectify differing facets of the child’s emotional experience — John Updike>

I could never objectify myself since it would be impossible to experience my own self as an object.  I am within, not without.  It is the viewer’s benefit to see the human form as an object.  In their study they can come to a greater understanding of our own structure.  Not just physically, but spiritually, emotionally, mentally.

People also don’t realize I actually make money as an Art Model.  They see it as a funny little hobby.  They always assume that because I’m a wife without a traditional job, I’m just gadding about, living off my husband’s income.  Besides food and housing, we don’t share our money.  Modeling pays my bills.

I love being an Art Model for the feeling of collaboration.  I love that I see it from both angles as a model and an artist.  I love the unknown – the moments where an artist’s work blows me away or surprises me, or when they see a person that I don’t look like at all.

“’Thereness’ follows nothingness.  It is impossible to premeditate.  It is to do with the collaboration of the sitter, …  but also to do with the disappearance of the sitter the moment the image emerges (Berger, 78).”

In John Berger’s book “The Shape of a Pocket,” he meditates on art and different artists throughout history.  But it was his discussion on the mystery of the model that most fascinated me, whether the model is a building, an object, or a person.

“The ‘sitter’ is at first here and now.  Then she disappears and (sometimes) comes back there, inseparable from every mark on the painting.

After she has ‘disappeared’ a drawing or two are the only clues about where she may have gone.  And of course, sometimes they’re not enough, and she never comes back (Berger, 80-81).”

An artist I work for said that she felt invisible when she stopped modeling.  I think I began modeling for the same exact reason.  I can’t say that now I feel seen, because much of what there is to see is within.  Sometimes people see that, sometimes they don’t.  But I see my body differently than I did before.  There is no shame in it, no discomfort.  I see it as an instrument.  I train it to be strong in the pose.  I sink into the physical pain for long periods of time, and travel through my thoughts.  Then eventually I come back again, and slip into my robe.

Works of art stay within my mind for years.  If I love them, I never forget them.  Sometimes I even think about how I can recreate them.  I dream about the works.  They become a part of my subconciousness.  They can even change my life.  These images go way beyond what anyone in the media can toss up on us.

“…  the media surround people with faces.  The faces harangue ceaselessly by provoking envy, new appetites, ambition or, occasionally, pity combined with a sense of impotence (Berger, 58).”

Art doesn’t speak as much as it feels, unless, of course, it’s propaganda.

Watching those who are adept with the charcoal, capturing every single muscle as though they have been trained by Leonardo Da Vinci, gives me strength to go on feeling clumsy and awkward until there is some kind of breakthrough.

“Real drawing is a constant question, is a clumsiness, which is a form of hospitality towards what is being drawn.  And, such hospitality once offered, the collaboration may sometimes begin (Berger, 75).”

It is a pleasure to be clumsy as an artist, and graceful as a model.  The two balance each other out.

My problem with past jobs was the same exact problem with the media.  I always felt harangued, pitied, made to feel envious, impotent.  But as an Art Model, I can just be.  No one is asking more of me than my perfect stillness.  While the timer is ticking, I solve all of my problems, envision plans, come up with titles and new writing ideas, and sometimes let my emotions fall into a song playing on the stereo.  While somewhere off in the distance, artists struggle along over the lines of my body and the colors of my form.

 

The Scent of the Circus

I just finished reading My Apprenticeships, by Colette – the French novelist and performer born in 1873, most famous for the novel Gigi.  My love for the writing of Colette has always felt like a guilty pleasure – like intensely dark chocolate, a red bouduior drenched in velvet, or my new perfume Black Afgano, a hypnotic blend of hashish and tobacco.  I slip into Colette’s books and fall away from distraction – finding complete understanding of all that I have left behind to be with her.

My Apprenticeships is a memoir of Colette’s young adulthood as a country girl, new in Paris, and married to M. Willy – an older man who had a knack for publishing and self-promotion.  M. Willy asked her to write stories based on her days in boarding school with a few titillating bits thrown in.  He eventually published them under his own name, and the Claudine series became so popular that every girl in Paris wanted to look just like Claudine.  But Colette received none of the credit, or the proceeds.

“Love comes disguised as a thunderbolt and often vanishes at the same pace (Colette, 103).”

The problem with M. Willy was that he was in love with his own power over oblivious doe-eyed youth – the minute Colette began to near thirty, with success in the theater as an actress, he was done with her.  He suggested a different kind of life, and by different, she understood that he was asking her to leave.

“How old was I?  Twenty-nine, thirty? – the age when life musters and arrays the forces that make for duration, the age that gives strength to resist disease, the age when you can no longer die for anyone, or because of anyone.  Thirty already – and already that hardening which I would compare to the crust that lime-springs form, dripping slowly (Colette, 101).”

Before M. Willy’s suggestion of a different kind of life, a woman offered Colette a traveling show with thirteen trained greyhounds.

“I have forgotten the name of the envoy who let fall this balm, this dew, this temptation, this breath of the high-road, this scent of the circus.  I shrugged my shoulders and refused even to see the thirteen greyhounds.  Thirteen greyhounds, their fabulous necks outstretched, the curve of their bellies drinking in the air.  And thirteen hearts to conquer.  Disquiet, anxiety.  It was all very well for me to shrink back into my scribe’s virtue, my familiar, faithful fear, anxiety remained, working within me, for me.  Thirteen greyhounds, a rampart, a family, a home.  How did I ever let them go (Colette, 122)?”

Just as I am, Colette was a complete nomad and a solitary homebody at the same time.  She was theatrical (No matter how many times I turn my back on it, there are always new ways to be on the stage).  She never had many female friends (women blow in and out of my life like the breeze).  She lacks sentiment, or any idealistic tripe, and yet, her writing revolves around love – realistic love rather than fake, idealized love.

For a long time I worked for the circus.  Unfortunately, there was no act with thirteen glorious greyhounds.  As suited to my homebody needs, it was a circus that doesn’t travel – they just change shows every four months to create a different theme on the same variation.  Teatro Zinzanni – a dinner theater involving vaudeville acts, an opera singer, a chanteuse, acrobats, trapeze artists, aerialists, jugglers, and lots of sequins.

The tent is one hundred years old, and imported from Europe.  You get the sense that Colette could have performed there.  Table 13 is haunted, and the guests that sit there always behave in a ridiculous way and leave feeling dissatisfied somehow.  Sometimes in the back hall, the chairs flip themselves off the hooks on the wall.  At night, after the show is over, one lamp is left lit on the stage to keep the bad spirits away – it’s an old circus theater tradition.

To be in the tent after everyone is gone late at night, is more intense even than the spectacularly glitzy show.  The quiet is strange because you still hear the sounds in the air – forks clinking, voices singing, the announcer bellowing, the instruments swooping music to the swinging people in the air.  The tent holds an enormous amount of energy.  Every night 268 people are served their food simultaneously.  Within five minutes they all have their plates.  Every entrée somehow always tastes the same, no matter what it is.  It tastes like it’s been in a heating box for hours.

At the circus, I worked as a dancing server.  Every night I crammed into a small mirrored-dressing room with ten other girls who had beautiful bodies and very loud mouths.  We applied our liquid eyeliner, tons of rouge and bright matte lipstick.  We swapped fishnets (this weird extreme version that are so strong they leave dents in your legs, but are not quite strong enough to withstand the abuse that we put them through).  The girls gossiped, sang at the top of their lungs, and swapped stories about auditions, boys, and crappy day jobs.  Being quiet, I always felt like I was on the outside looking in.  The loudmouths had their own club, and the quiet ones had secrets shared backstage when everyone else couldn’t hear.

99 percent of the performers were introverts when offstage.  They were from all over the world, and the one thing that stood out, was how lonely they all were.  Well, except for the performers that lived in Seattle.  As for the international stars – the more beautiful, ethereal, and otherworldly they were, the more alone they seemed to feel.  They never stopped traveling from circus tent to circus tent, wherever they could find them, throughout the world.  Marriages didn’t last, unless the partners were in an act together, or always in the same show.

The servers looked up to the performers with adoration and jealousy.  Almost all of the servers were actors or musicians.  We presented the performers like diamonds every night, while we were relegated to the periphery of the tent with brief food-baring dances at the center.  We were scolded whenever we accidentally stepped into the performer’s spotlight, or tripped into their path.

Every Sunday night to make up for it, we all went to sing karaoke down the street.  We needed that moment in the limelight to refuel our egos.  One night, we found ourselves up against the cast of Hello Dolly, and surprisingly, we put them in the dust with our singing skills and audience lust.

Besides being told every now and then that I needed to “sparkle more” or that my tickets were “too perfect,” I suppose I wasn’t so bad at being a server at Teatro Zinzanni.  Five nights a week, sometimes more, I was there doing the exact same repetition every night.  The circus began to feel like a broken record, a loop that could suck me into the vortex.  I had tendinitis from carrying too many plates, and my back was always a mess.  Without fail, just before we opened the curtains to let the guests into the tent, I had anxiety attacks – dizzy and nauseous, like I was about to pass out.

Work came home with me too.  The same workmares haunted me over and over in my sleep – flashing lights, lurid faces, and some terrible obstacle course to get to my tables.  In general, the same cluster-fuck that I lived every single shift.

Now when I see my past coworkers from TZ, I am always impressed by their extreme energy.  I wonder if it’s the tent that gave them that tenacity, or if they would just naturally be that way if they had not worked there.  Being around greatness makes you strive to be great as well.  No one wants to be that server in the wings, and if you don’t get out eventually, you languish there until you are too old to “sparkle” anymore.

It’s obvious that the theater added to Colette’s greatness as a writer.  In the theater she studied people and places, traveled, and gained admirers.  She became a ravishing woman in that circle of activity.

In one of my favorite scenes from My Apprenticeships, Colette meets Mata Hari, and relays what a fake she thought she was.

“The people who fell into such dithyrambic raptures and wrote so ecstatically of Mata Hari’s person and talents must be wondering now what collective delusion possessed them…  the colour of her skin was disconcerting, no longer brown and luscious as it had been by artificial light but a dubious, uneven purple…  (Mata Hari) did not move a muscle as the voice of Lady W________ rose beside us, saying in clear, plain words:

“She an Oriental?  Don’t be silly!  Hamburg or Rotterdam, or possibly Berlin (Colette, 129-130).””

Teatro Zinzanni was exactly like Mata Hari.  For a while I was in love with the fantasy life.  On rainy, depressing days I could escape into the lights and forget my own life.  But then the cracks began to show – the constant stench of body odor backstage and non-stop febreze spray in the pits of our costumes, the guy who refused to pay on New Years Eve, the way we all had to fake it every night of our lives, the way I had no life outside of the tent, and how the rest of the world began to feel distant and strange, like it was passing me by and I was missing it.

On my bookshelves, there are fifteen books by Colette.  I stumbled onto them in chance meetings in bookshops.  Some are almost impossible to find.  My favorite (and her favorite as well) is The Pure and the Impure – a dark foray into the erotic underworlds of Paris.  There is really no plot, just character after character swimming in their own particular decadence.  When I first read the book, decadence was my tool for self-discovery.  Now I see it as a tool for avoiding pain.  I’m not in pain anymore, so I don’t’ really need decadence, at least, not all that much of it.

Colette understood life, unflinchingly – her writing is poetic because of this.  It’s not the poetry of solitude, but the poetry of human understanding – beautiful life, dark life, art that imitates life, life that always has a new beginning.

 

 

 

Breaking My Erotic Silence

After watching the excellent film The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, I had no choice but to pick up Dalma Heyn’s book, The Erotic Silence of the American Wife.

In the film, Pippa marries a wealthy man thirty years her senior when she is a young runaway living on the edge.  She mutates from being an expressive human being with problems into the stilted and empty role of being the Perfect Wife.  But underneath all of her prim lines, you sense the real Pippa lurking underneath.  She begins sleepwalking, ending up at the min-mart where she buys cigarettes.  And then, out to lunch with her neurotic friend, Pippa begins to combust:

“You could be married to anybody, if that’s what you’re worried about.  Marriage is an act of will.  I mean, I adore Herb, but our marriage functions because we will it to.  If you leave love to hold everything together, you can forget it.  Love comes and goes with the breeze, minute by minute.”

When Dalma Heyn set out to write her book comprised of years worth of interviews with wives who committed adultery, she began with an armload of clichés, stereotypes, and societal views that had nothing to do with the feelings of actual women, their marriages, and their experiences.  The problem that all of these women shared, was that they bought into the ideal of the Perfect Wife – she is selfless, giving, able to predict the needs of everyone else, without ever meeting her own needs.  When these women don’t measure up to this idea of goodness (and no one ever does or should), they constantly feel bad – they are a failure, there is something wrong with them.  In the process, they disconnect completely from themselves and go numb.  They can no longer experience a fulfilling sex life either.  They’ve become what they thought was their husband’s fantasy, but it has nothing to do with them.  They are looking at themselves from the outside in.

“They spoke of a profound awareness that they were somehow no longer themselves, that they weren’t in a relationship but playing a role in one (Heyn, 103)…”

They wonder what became of the sexual outlaw they were before marriage.  Some of the women had not even had premarital sex.  Regardless, women from their twenties to their seventies, and all walks of life, experience adultery as a rebirth of self.  They don’t experience shame or guilt – they experience life, total joy and an uninhibited place to reclaim their authenticity.  They seek out men that have none of the prerequisites that they look for in a husband or even a boyfriend.  They might not even be in love with these men, it doesn’t matter; the experience of total freedom is the same.

The women often have no desire to leave their husbands.  But through the experience of adultery, they understand that they need to change the shape of their marriages, so that at last, their needs can factor into the relationship.  There is no going back to the Perfect Wife.  Some of the women never tell their husbands and fare well, while a large percentage of the women who do tell end up in divorce.  But every marriage is different with different outcomes.

I never thought that I would get married because I loved being single so much.  My sexuality was the ultimate adventure for me.  So sometimes, I wonder, how did I end up married to a man whose sexuality is so vanilla.  He’s turning fifty this year, and though he thinks of having sex all the time, it’s often the last priority.  When it doesn’t feel like a routine, when he isn’t being too sensitive and careful, sex between us is wonderful, but rarely ever dark, or seductive, or unbridled.  Can these things exist in a marriage?  I always thought they could.

When we were dating he struggled to keep up with me.  He stayed up late with me till the early morning hours and we had sex everyday.  He was working three jobs and started to feel the pressure.

Around the same time, I decided to give him a fashion show.  I went into my closet and put on all my old fetish gear – vinyl, thigh-high fishnets, towering platforms.  When I paraded out, he was not aroused by it at all.  He said I was playing the part of someone else.  Maybe it was who I was before he met me, maybe I never was that role to begin with.  It just wasn’t for him.  He wanted me to put on a sleek and elegant dress instead.  I’d never encountered a man who didn’t go crazy over artifice.  For a week after that, he struggled sexually, and then unbeknownst to me, Viagra saved the day.

For him, the two events were unrelated, but after that week, I stopped taking risks.  I started feeling nervous about making him uncomfortable.  I left my kinks behind.  He loves my strength in all facets of our life together.  But he has a puritan side, a clumsy embarrassment over anything out of the ordinary.

The other issue is that he’s not the string bean-types that I used to date.  He’s like one of those massive warriors that you see in movies like 300.  Built like a rock, solid, stocky, with huge hands that don’t know their own strength.  When I told him that I like to be choked, he gave it a try and almost broke my neck.  When he sleeps with his arm across my chest, my ribs begin to feel like they’re crushing under the pressure and I panic, trying desperately to wake myself.  I’m still learning how to live with our differences.

But life is also easier, happier, more content with him.  We can’t get enough of being together – we work together, go out all the time, talk openly about everything, and share our passions.  It’s always fun, even when we’re fighting.  We don’t buy into the term “settling down” like many couples do.  I play the role of the Perfect Wife more for my parents than my husband.  When they show up, everything is clean and dinner is delicious.  When they’re not here, our lives are chaotic and slightly out of control.

I don’t idealize our relationship.  I didn’t marry a man for his status or money.  I married a fellow outlaw, who lives by his own rules, and makes me laugh.  I’m well aware that the future is uncertain.  I’ll be surprised if our marriage survives for the rest of our lives, and I very much hope that it does.  And does that only mean the rest of his life, since I’m so much younger?  I make jokes about being a wealthy old widow, living like a gypsy and on the prowl.  But really, it’s just to make myself feel better about the unknown.

I went through some confusing changes in the process of our growing closer.  Like a rubber band snapping back and forth.  I was caught up in the whirlwind, in the romance in the beginning.  Then after our engagement I rebelled and fought and wanted to leave.  I couldn’t figure out what I was doing.  But on our wedding day, it all made sense.

For a short while, I turned into an old lady, had no real friends, started to compensate for my husband’s reckless, accident-prone nature by being extremely anxious, nervous, overly careful.  At times, the pressure of being a wife overwhelms me.  I’ve often wanted to run back to when my life was more straightforward and simple – when I could just work, do my art, and have sex with random people every now and then.

Sex was self-discovery, mutual-discovery, empathic-discovery.  Married sex is something completely different that I don’t quite understand.  It’s like we need to learn to speak each other’s languages, and haven’t quite gotten there yet.

There is a strange role-reversal where in our relationship I am supposed to be more like the man and he is more like the woman.  He wants to cuddle and be close, and I just want to get laid.  He wants to work up to it for long periods of time, while I get bored waiting.  He wants me to initiate, while I just want to feel wanted.  And yet, he is enormously giving, patient, and selfless – which makes me feel like an impatient, selfish, taker.

No couple is perfect, and somehow our differences balance things out.  My husband is the first man I was ever in a committed relationship with.  I guess I got bored with everything else.  Before we met, I had become an evil heartbreaker.  The ego trip felt nice, but it didn’t feel right to hurt people and feel nothing.  My husband didn’t buy all that crap.  He saw right through it (though he admits to being scared of me at first).  It was good to be seen at last.  Really seen.  It still is.

When I think of other men sexually, I wonder what would be the point, when there’s only one man who lets me be who I really am.  Maybe not the dominatrix side, but every other side.  Everyone else pales in comparison.  Everyone else seems like they’re missing something.  With everyone I dated before, I was never really myself, and was never accepted to begin with.

I am the subject of my husband’s life.  He says that I give his life meaning.  He even took my last name.

Yesterday was our 2nd Anniversary.  I hemmed my wedding dress and surprised him by wearing it on our dinner date, along with my birdcage veil, and my grandmother’s jade necklace.  We talked about our plans for building our future together.  We talked openly and honestly about how we really feel about all of it.  We raved over Sea Urchin, Veal Sweetbreads, Cavatelli with Morels, Chocolate Truffle Cake with Black Cherries.  We even talked about this post, and how our memories are different, and yet the same.

This is the first openly honest thing I’ve ever written about my husband, stripped of all the idealistic tripe.  I’m breaking my erotic silence.