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Here is how it was.
I was afraid when I got to the retreat it would be mostly rich white people with rich white books about being rich and white. Or worse, rich white people with books about something more Glamorous. I was afraid we had been invited as part of the glamour.
But it was only half Rich and half Glam and so for all the rich folks I think we just read as different. It was like the way the city always paints the low-income housing hospital mint, lemon pie, and brink pink as if to say:
“We’ve done all we can to sterilize them.”
“What sweet thing are you making out of your fortuitous little hardship?”
“At least we’re demure here– on the precipice.”
The government says they’ll help you out with shelter but– if— “By the way, do you mind living in a petit four?” That way all the taxpayers can drive by and see the rainbow of their generosity, the spectacle of liberalism.
But these were the kinds of oblivious taxpayers who don’t understand the way their state-mandated donations humiliated the Glamourous Ones and so they didn’t really rub it in. Except, of course, in a couple of choice cases in which they brandished different sorrows in an attempt to bolster some mythic credibility. It was easy to tell them apart because the rest of us weren’t brandishing hardships. We were laughing out loud about missing teeth in a way that made them feel uncomfortable and then feeling sad and complicated about their sorrow.
Best and Worst:
It seemed almost foolish to start talking to the people who I would eventually talk to. Our latent friendship seemed such an embarrassing foregone conclusion that I was shy to begin. On the first night as a getting-to-know-you-game we were asked to find a partner and there were four or five I couldn’t have gone with because the facilitator had specified that we were to choose people we didn’t already know and they seemed too familiar. Of course they weren’t familiar and I didn’t know them. And: there wasn’t enough time to think like that.
Driving with G across the canyon from where we were staying I pointed to an enormous 1970s modern complex. “Wow,” I exclaimed with sincere curiosity, “what’s that?” We had been there four days already but it was only my second time away from the conference. She had been giving me a tour of the canyon and pointing out the really rich from the really really rich. With limited time I had decided to become an expert on Bel Air Knolls. For an hour I had pointed and she had obliged (that’s where Kathy Griffin lives, they’re cypress trees, yes– just like the movie.) “That?” she pointed, laughing, “that’s the University where we’re staying! In fact I think you can see ___ writing on the deck.” It was clearly him but I hadn’t been looking for him so I hadn’t recognized that hat and those legs. Soon it couldn’t have been anyone else.
“I saw a lizard!” ___ announced and later generously showed me a photograph of the reptile poised to run across the hot cement. “I got this one, too,” he said showing me a camera-phone image of the cement and the bushes from a greater distance. “If you know it’s there,” he said, “you can almost see the it.”
I wrote a note in cursive and it took him a moment to figure out what my letters were but he said the writing was pretty. Perhaps the worst thing to hear at a writing workshop.
Even when the moon was almost full
Even when the moon was full
Even when the crowd had thinned
Even under unforgiving institutional light
Even caught in headlights
Even as the rest of it turned into a restless, drunk din, and we perched distinct on the edge
Reading It Each All Other was still hard and dire.
And now I’m home and I’ve tried other outlets but it seems my only recourse is to write. Funny that that should have to be sufficient.
* A line from the entry “Angel” in Alistair McCartney’s encyclopedic novel The End of the World Book.
Lolaj is rarely breaking his blagmorotorium so I am just going to take a moment to grieve his absence by performing the Inverse of project. I’m sure his guest Ask-A-Lesbian columnist is getting really fucking tired of not being misquoted on the Internet. So I’ll just reproduce a question the Lesbian asked me.
On Monday I returned from the Lambda Literary Workshop in LA and while I was there she asked me how it was going. I was telling her about some femmephobia and some terrifying Beyonce elocution from white boys. About one in particular…
Les: i hope you tell him what’s up. are you telling everyone what’s up? or are you quietly biding your time and planning to blog about them mercilessly?
And I told her. And now I tell you. Both.
On the last night I got into a really inadvisable argument about class. Despite the fact that I come out the hero in the retelling, at the time it was just humiliating and horrible. So you’ll have to stay tooned for the actual recap and not just the preview of the recap once I’ve reeled and recovered a bit more.
Just consider this a primer and an homage. Oh. And a call for negotiations to end AJ’s writer’s strike.
My friend, Finn (5), informed me of two things. One [with a thoroughly disgusted face]: You smell funny. I suggested it might be sweat. No, he said, it’s something else, like violets.
Two: If I want to increase the number of visitors to my site I should probably post a picture of him. So here goes.
When I was sixteen years old I broke up with my first boyfriend, Jesse Case. But before the real break up we had a week long break, break-up during which I went for a walk to the half-shell and then therapy with his best friend John Munch. I think we talked about being freaks at school and The Eagles. Someone was committing infidelity of some kind. Then Jesse and I got back together and then we broke up for real and he started calling me and saying some pretty mean stuff which I think I mostly ignored. Whenever I would engage him to defend myself or to try to hear him out or comfort him, our exchanges would devolve into pure pain. His. Mine. Eventually he discovered the thing that would get to me. He wrote me an email that read: Dear Rebecca, I’ve been talking to my friends about you and everything and we’ve decided that you need serious help.
I was devastated. I was also a little confused since his friend had actually walked me to my weekly appointment of serious-help just a few days earlier. After a lot of crying and worrying about it, hating myself, and believing I would helplessly repeat all of my parents’ relationship mistakes I did a funny thing. A funny thing that in almost every other situation has been a major mistake but this time actually panned out. I went to my father. I told him what Jesse had said and without taking even second to think about he explained that Jesse was just upset and was trying to get to me. This just hadn’t occurred to my optimistic, 16 year old mind.
I was still trying to protect Jesse as much as possible and felt horrible for wanting to break up. There wasn’t any real reason to break up. He didn’t do anything terrible or even unkind or boring. In fact, our relationship had been a pretty healing one– for me, I know, and I think for him as well. He had lost his father a year before we started going out and we talked about it a lot. He wrote me three songs on his keyboard– all in different keys with violin interludes and some charming forever-love type lyrics. We watched The Abyss and ate a lot of Chinese food and had sex. And then it was over. I just didn’t really desire him anymore and I desired other people and that love we had had was over. I felt selfish about wanting to be out of our relationship but decided to break up with him even though it was the selfish thing to do. Even more selfishly I wanted to maintain a different kind of love so that all the healing we had done wouldn’t be unmade simply because we weren’t going to get married and go around together forever.
Now it’s been about seven years and I’m doing it again. Breaking up, I mean. And I know a lot of you already know it. If not because I’ve told you or the internet has told you but through intense radio-silence buffered only by midnight bleatings of all sorts.
A series of invectives and accusations has been launched and I don’t know what to do. I could rebuff each one. Defend, explain, and apologize. That seems to make it worse. And today we reached that tipping point where I got an email akin to “my friends and I have all decided that you need serious help” and it was all I could do not to think about Jesse. It would never have occurred to me to lob the particulars of his father’s death, his own traumas and histories, at him. Even now, even though I meant to write more specifically about them, I can’t. Even though Jesse does not read my blog and even if he did, he might not care. I’d rather maintain the possibility that that healing was actually healing and that means not chasing him around with accusations of my own. Even though our relationship did not last forever I am still faithful to the confidences we shared then. Without knowing where he is with all of it it would feel like a major betrayal to post them on the internet. In a way I’m not doing it now to prove that I was serious then. Which I was.
I mean, I wasn’t going to do any of this really. I was just going to keep diligently working on an essay I’m writing about butch/femme and break-ups and privacy and healing and confidentiality and concealment. You would have liked it. It was also about the 1780 shipwreck HMS Ontario which was recently discovered under 500 feet of water in the great lakes, remarkably more intact than it should have been.
And look where I am now. Doing all those things. Even kind of talking about The Eagles.
Last night we danced. 10-2:30 for free in Austin. All within a five minute interval while waiting in line in the bathroom with Amanda (my pockets):
gayboy: Are you two straight?
we [ignore ignore]
gayboy [turns head to side in querulous kitten sense except not in a cute way]: Are you straight?
gayboy parses, processes, gives us each the up/down, decides that we must be there to pick up another woman and that my “no” came because I was BIsexual.
gayboy [looks at Amanda]: Are YOU straight.
gayboy: Are you related?
we are now facing each other as his barrage of questions persists into the back of my head and then over my scalp and into A’s ignoring-eyes.
gayboy: Are you straight? Are you related? Are YOU straight?
Amanda: I’m butch.
gayboy performs gayboy shock pause.
gayboy: OH! I totally understand. [sweeps hands in conciliatory gesture in a circle in front of A’s chest in a way that makes me wonder if he had actually been touching her through this whole interaction.]
Then, from behind, gaygirl begins. Has she, I wonder, been listening to this interaction with gayboy?
gaygirl: oh my god. you know who you are?
gaygirl: You’re totally David Bowie. Wow. Totally.
To Friends: Phone off. Indef. Le disconnect. Come up with bettor ways to contact.
To Friends with Fangs and Fang-to-be-friends: How come so many of my friends are with-imminent-child? Someone Email me when Angela has infantFangchild or labors or kicks mother back to DE. Thx.
To Heath Ledger: Sorry I didn’t write earlier. I meant to write you an e-vigil or something but wondered if it might be crude. Then I saw BMan and realized I was mistaken. There is no such thing as too crude. So sorry. Nice move with all that haunting that your recent death did for that film. Also, nice work being involved with a movie that had at least seventeen consecutive plots. Most films try to run the plots at the same time but this was gutsy/long. I’m into that and appreciate it as a career-move. I especially appreciated the amped up/modified Prisoner’s Dilemma, Katie Holmes’ remarkable transformation into someone way hotter, and two to five of Morgan Freeman’s lines. *
To Jessica Benjamin (friend): Remember the time we saw Batzzzzzzzzzzzz.
*tactfully almost refraining from making no-regrets-about-type-casting jokes right now.
Thank you for your very generous help. So far you have helped me to raise half the money for the workshop. I want to thank Angela, Jack, Sarah, Stork, Alex, Jennifer, Erica, Julie, Piper, and Kit not only for donations but also for some really witty, supportive, hilarious emails to accompany them.
I will let you all know if/as things develop and then I’m sure you’ll hear from me when I make it to LA.