#amwriting #IthinkIneedawritinggroup

I am having some real trouble with this story I’m working on.  I’ve hit a bit of a wall.  I have pretty much the entire story mapped out in my head and in about twenty nine slightly disconnected scenes that culminate in approximately 43,000 words.  Novel length.  But something is still not right.  I don’t know how to proceed.

A thought I had today, while struggling with the whole concept of life in the 1950s, my romanticized version versus reality, of how to tie it into a modern setting (aka. something I understand).  But I don’t know that I really want to go there.  The idea was to have the granddaughter of the de facto protagonist be assigned her grandmother’s scholarly work in one of her own college classes and having that be a jumping off point to explore the rest of the story that I’ve already written.*  But I don’t know how I feel about that structure.  I didn’t set out for this to be a story about a young woman understanding her grandmother better, or more wholly; even though I’m all about women understanding the women before them in order to better understand their own place in the world.

I suppose my question is: would it be a cop-out?  Is it the easy way to tie in all the pieces I’ve written so far?  Or should I keep searching for something more organic and stay in the fifties?

*The idea makes me excited because then I’d get to create new characters and I love creating new characters.

Using Fiction to get a grip on Reality

It’s what we’re meant to do as writers, yes?  We write about something we’re struggling with to better understand it or cope with it.  Why not write a story about a dead uncle with whom the narrator never really had much a of relationship?  Maybe it’ll help.

#JaneDates is Coming!

Jane Confessional

I have been working diligently on my brain child, the shoddily put together webcomic about on-, and off-, line dating as told through the use of children’s toys and collector’s dolls.  The first #JaneDates (prequel) comic is set to hit the Internet the afternoon of the 17th of December, 2014 on Tumblr.

Whatever happens with this project, happens.  I’m just so excited for all of it’s amateurish glory!  And happy to have an outlet (other than bad poetry) for my frustrations surrounding dating in my late 20s/early 30s!

The Very Real Conversation That Occurs Between Brain and Uterus Every Month by Me, Rebecca

Brain Plushie available at IHeartGuts.com

The Very Real Conversation That Occurs Between Brain and Uterus Every Month

Most days the two organs don’t speak to one another, though they are actually very close friends. One is too busy managing the rest of the body that it just doesn’t have time to chat. The other is often too busy socializing with the various other bits that want the same things in life that she wants. She and these others agree Brain sometimes needs reminders of what’s what and, as she is the loudest of them, they have elected Uterus their spokesorgan.

Although, sometimes, I suspect Uterus is merely Vagina’s puppet.

  • Five days before menstruation

Uterus:

Heeeeeeyyy!!!! Brain! Guess what’s coming!

Brain:

I’m in the middle of something important, Uterus. I’m going to have to get back to you.

  • Four days before menstruation

Uterus:

Heeeeeeeyyy!!! Brain! Guess what’s coming!

Brain:

Uterus, I’m still busy.

  • Three days before menstruation

Uterus:

Brain! Guess what! Guess what’s almost here!

Brain:

Dude! Back off. I’ve got work to do.

  • Two days before menstruation

Uterus:

pssst! Brain! Brain! Brain!

Brain:

What?

Uterus:

Guess what? Guess what? Guess what?

Brain, sighs:

What, Uterus?

Uterus:

Guess what’s coming!

Brain:

Gawd, you’re annoying.

Uterus:

heheheheheeeeee

Brain:

I hate you.

  • One day before menstruation

Uterus:

(poke, poke, poke, poke, poke)

Brain:

Stop Poking Me!

Uterus:

(poke, poke, poke)

Brain:

Uterus! You little fuck! Stop poking me! I fucking know what’s coming!

Uterus:

Yeah, but, Brain, wouldn’t it be awesome if this didn’t have to happen every month?

Brain:

You have no idea.

Uterus:

Hey, I have to go through this too.

Brain:

Oh, yeah, sorry.

Uterus:

No problem.

.

.

.

.

But, imagine, how awesome would it be if we didn’t have to do this every month!

Brain:

Yeah, that’s be pretty great.

Uterus:

No lower back pain, no cramps, less grumpiness….

Brain:

Yeah, that’s be pretty sweet. But those meds that fuck with your hormones scare me.

Uterus:

Oh, no, yeah, fuck those.

Brain:

If only there were another way to make menstruation stop.

Other than menopause. We’re way too young for that.

Uterus:

For sure. We should take our minds off of this thing that’s coming. I think it’s giving you too much anxiety.

Brain:

It always does. But what can I do about it?

Uterus:

Wellllllll…… I can think of some things we could do about it.

Brain:

Like what?

Uterus:

Mmmmmmm, let me just move some blood around down here. See if that helps.

Brain:

Ummm???

Uterus:

Yeah, that’s right. Feel that? Doesn’t it feel gooooood?

Brain:

Mmmm…. Yeah… obviously. I guess.

Uterus:

Yeah, it does! I’m going to move more blood around down here.

Brain:

Dude, seriously? Come on. I mean, thanks and all, but I’ve got other things to do right now.

Uterus:

This is more fun.

Brain:

You are not wrong, but wouldn’t this be more fun with another person involved.

Uterus:

Hands down! Best idea you’ve had all day, Brain!

Go find someone else who can rearrange their blood flow.

Brain:

Uterus! You know it’s not that easy!

Uterus:

Bollocks! We’re young, all the people we know are young, they shouldn’t have any trouble getting it up!

Brain:

That’s not what I’m talking about!

Uterus:

You can find someone, I’m sure. You’re clever.

Brain:

Thanks, but that’s also not what I mean. I can’t just “go find someone” to have sex with!

Uterus:

Not with that jive-ass attitude, you can’t!

Brain:

You mean “realistic”?

Uterus:

I mean “stupid”! Let me move more blood around down here; it’ll help you relax.

How’s that? Now you can do it. Go find someone. Go ahead. Someone long and stiff!

Brain:

You’ve got to stop doing this, man.

Uterus:

Go ahead, you can do this. I believe in you!

Brain:

No. I can’t. Because it doesn’t work that way.

Uterus:

Fine, whatever… pussy.

.

.

.

Ok, fine, if you can’t do that, then let’s do the other thing.

Brain:

Ok, yeah, sure. I can do the other thing.

Uterus:

Won’t be the solution to our problem, but at least it’ll be something.

Brain:

Ok, let’s do this.

Uterus:

Mmmm, yeah, baby!

OH YEAH!

YEAH!

YEA–AHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

  • Day one of menstruation

Brain:

OH MY GAWD, THIS IS THE WORST THING IN EXISTENCE! WHO CAME UP WITH THIS CRAPPY METHOD OF TAKING CARE OF THINGS!

Uterus:

Um, muthafucka, I told you it was coming!

Brain:

YOU ARE THE WORLD’S BIGGEST BRAT! I HATE YOU SO MUCH!

Uterus:

Look, this isn’t my fault. This happens every month. It’s been like seventeen years. You knew this was coming.

Brain:

THAT DOESN’T MEAN IT ISN’T COMPLETELY AWFUL!

Uterus:

Yeah, true: Abdomen is cramping; Lower Back is in mild discomfort, Upper Back ain’t too happy, neither. Got an ache up in your region. Yeah, this sucks, doesn’t it?

Brain:

THAT’S WHAT I’VE BEEN SAYING, YOU BITCH!

Uterus:

Not need to get snappy. I gave you a solution to this problem; you decided not to pursue it.

Brain:

WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?

Uterus:

Last night. I made a suggestion, and you shot it down, as usual!

Brain:

YOU DIDN’T GIVE ME A SOLUTION! YOU JUST MADE THE NIPPLES ALL SENSITIVE AND SENT BLOOD RUSHING TOWARDS YOURSELF, YOU SELFISH CUNT!

Uterus:

Yeah, snobby-pants, so you would go out and find a dude to play with, but you wouldn’t do it.

Brain:

WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?

Uterus:

I’m just saying this could be easily avoided if we were pregnant.

Brain:

OH MY GAWD, WHY ARE YOU SO FUCKING MEAN?!

  • Day two of menstruation

Uterus:

Hey, Brain.

Brain:

I hate you.

  • Day three of menstruation

Uterus:

Hey, Brain?

Brain:

I still hate you.

  • Day four of menstruation

Uterus:

Brain?

Brain:

Yeah?

Uterus:

Are we cool?

Brain:

Yeah, we’re cool.

Uterus:

Ok, cool.

Brain:

Sorry I yelled at you so much. I know you don’t mean anything by it.

Uterus:

I’m just trying to help.

Brain:

I know. It’s who you are. I was grumpy. I shouldn’t take that out on you.

Uterus:

It’s ok. I get it. I was grumpy too.

Brain:

Still… it’s not your fault. I’m sorry.

Uterus:

Thanks. It does suck, a lot. I know. Sorry the first few days are always awful. I’m not sure what to do about that.

Brain:

I don’t think there’s anything we can do. It’s just how we’re designed.

Uterus:

Yeah, I suppose so.

It’s almost over.

Brain:

Yeah, I’m really excited about that.

Uterus:

Me too.

  • Day five of menstruation

Uterus:

What do you want to do tomorrow night?

Brain:

I don’t know. I sort of want to go out.

Uterus:

That would be so much fun!

Brain:

Whoa, maybe, Uterus. We’ll see how we’re feeling tomorrow night.

Uterus:

Come on! Let’s make a plan! It’ll be so much fun! Besides I think the rest of the body could use a night out. It’s all stiff. It needs to move! It needs to dance!

Brain:

It definitely needs to stretch. Maybe we’ll do some yoga later.

Uterus:

That will be great. But we should also go out dancing tomorrow night.

Brain:

I’ll think about it.

  • Day one post-menstruation

Uterus:

Dancing? Tonight? Yes?

Brain:

Maybe.

Uterus:

Come on, Brain! You love going out dancing!

Brain:

Oh, yeah, loud music making me hurt and cheap alcohol making me fuzzy, what’s not to love?

Uterus:

Cut the sarcasm! We’re going dancing!

Brain:

Maybe.

Uterus:

There’ll be lots of stimulation for you! You’ll get to see all sorts of interesting things; there’ll be people there you can make fun of! I know how much you like doing that!

Brain:

I do like that…

Uterus:

And there might be some pretty people we can stare at.

Brain:

True…

Uterus:

Think about it. Ok?

Brain:

Ok.

  • Day two post-menstruation

Uterus:

Last night was fun.

Brain:

Sure was!

Uterus:

We should go back in a few days… or tomorrow… or tonight.

Brain:

Tonight might be too soon.

Uterus:

We could go somewhere else. Like that place that one dude said was good.

Brain:

That place is trashy.

Uterus:

Yeah, but that dude might be there.

Brain:

He was cute…

Uterus:

Yep.

Brain:

But a little skeevy.

Uterus:

But hawt.

Brain:

You only think about one thing.

Uterus:

Usually.

We’re going, right?

Brain:

Unlikely.

Uterus:

We can go somewhere classier.

Brain:

I’ll think about it.

Uterus:

You should. Because we should go out tonight.

  • Day five post-menstruation

Uterus:

Hey! Hey, Brain!

Brain:

Yes?

Uterus:

We haven’t gone out in a couple of nights. Want to go out tonight?

Brain:

I don’t know. Body is a little tired.

Uterus:

Body will rally! Let’s go out!

Brain:

I don’t think that’s the best idea.

Uterus:

What? Come on! It’s the weekend!

Brain:

It’s Tuesday!

Uterus:

That doesn’t matter!

Brain:

Yes, it does! We’re not in college anymore.

Uterus:

That’s why we should go out tonight. We are a grown woman! We can do whatever we want!

I’ll show you!

Brain:

Stop rearranging blood down there!

Uterus:

You need this.

Brain:

It’s two o’clock in the afternoon!

Uterus:

Yeah! Ain’t no time like the present!

Brain:

Uterus! You’ve got to behave yourself.

Uterus:

I’m bored! You never let me take control!

Brain:

That’s because you make poor decisions when I put you in charge!

Uterus:

I won’t do it this time! Promise! Let’s go out!

Brain:

No.

Uterus:

Relax, Brain. Feel the blood flow down here. Come on, enjoy yourself.

Brain:

Uterus! Stop it! I’m busy!

Uterus:

But it feels good, right? Just let it feel good.

Brain:

Why do I even talk to you?

Mmmmm…

Uterus:

That’s right. Just relax.

Brain:

No! Stop that!

Uterus:

Just a little more.

Brain:
You are actually the worst.

Uterus:

Let’s go find a dude.

Brain:

NO!

  • Seven days post-menstruation

Brain:

Uterus. Stop it.

Uterus:

I wasn’t doing anything!

Brain:

You know what you were doing. Stop it. Now.

Uterus:

Is this not the appropriate time for this? It’s after work, we’re free from responsibilities, we’re out… mingling…

Brain:

Not gonna happen.

Uterus:

But, it could

Brain:

No, I’m sure it could not.

Uterus:

We really can’t rule anything out, now, can we? The night is young and that one smells good.

Brain:

Stop being creepy.

Uterus:

That one over there smells good, too. And he’s cuter.

Go talk to that one.

Brain:

No. Stop it.

Uterus:

Come on! I can sense him.

Brain:

No, Uterus, that’s not why we’re out.

Uterus:

What? We’re out for a quiet drink?

We’re drinking vodka! That means this is a fun night! Let’s get us some fuuuuuuuuunnn!

Brain:

It’s just one drink with some friends.

Uterus:

Yeah, some friends who wouldn’t stop you from flirting with that hottie!

Brain:

The one that smells good?

Uterus:

The one with the hair. Damn, yeah; that’s nice. Take a second look.

Brain:

Gawd, he’s hot.

Uterus:

YEAH!! LET’S GO MAKE SOME BABIES!!!!!

Brain:

OH MY GAWD, UTERUS, SHUT IT! WE DON’T WANT BABIES!

Uterus:

No, YOU don’t want babies. I want babies! Let’s get some babies inside me! STAT!

Brain:

Do you even know what “STAT” means?

Uterus:

Like I care! LET’S GET THAT DUDE AND DO IT!

Brain:

Seriously, man? What the ever lovin’ hell?

Uterus:

Babies.

Brain:

Stop saying that.

Uterus:

Let’s make some babies.

Brain:

You are seriously creepy.

Uterus:

Come on! I want to do things that might result in babies.

Brain:

Calm the fuck down, dude. Babies might happen one day, but they’re certainly not happening now.

Uterus:

BABIES.

Brain:

Settle down! Not now. We are in no rush.

Uterus:

No rush? Wait! Did you say NO RUSH?

Brain:

Yes.

No. Rush.

Uterus:

Aren’t you supposed to be the smart one?

Pfft, “no rush“.

Brain:

What? We are not in any rush!

.

.

.

are we?

Uterus:

OF COURSE WE ARE!

We are in the very middle of our child-bearing years, man! We are in the rushiest of rushes! It all goes downhill from here! We are beginning to lose our eggs even faster than we already were! It is going to become increasingly more difficult for us to conceive! We might have to take (shudder) fertility drugs if we wait much longer. Or, worse, freeze some of those little buggers. They’re only babies, they can’t handle all that cold! Don’t make them leave their warm, loving home, for that cold, indifferent freezer before they are granted the opportunity for true life!

Brain:

Dude, you are seriously dramatic tonight.

Uterus:

OF COURSE I’M DRAMATIC YOU WON’T LET ME DO WHAT I WANT!

It’s been so long. I just want a stiff penis to come over for dessert!

Brain:

Look, I know it’s been a while…

Uterus:

It’s been forever!

Brain:

Not exactly, but I promise it’ll happen again sometime.

Just probably not tonight.

Uterus:

I FUCKING HATE YOU.

Brain:

Of course you do.

Uterus:

When we don’t have anyone to take care of us when we’re old and senile it’s going to be your fault.

Brain:

Wow. Uncalled for, dude.

Uterus:

Whatever.

Brain:

Wouldn’t you rather we did it with someone who actually likes us, rather than some rando dude we pick up in this place? A man who respects and admires us for who we are, rather than what we are endowed with? Wouldn’t you prefer it if he cared about our well-being more than he cares about our width and volume? Wouldn’t that be so much nicer? Why don’t we just wait for one who feels this way about us? It’ll make the entire activity more fun, don’t you think?

Uterus:

I don’t care about any of that shit: I WANT ONE AND I WANT ONE NOW!

Brain:

Hey! Veruca Salt! Calm your ovaries! It’s not happening tonight!

Uterus:

BABIES!

Brain:

We really don’t need to concern ourselves with babies, man. You’ve got to believe me!

Uterus:

IT IS OUR JOB TO CREATE NEW LIFE!

BABIES, NOW!

Brain:

Ok, Uterus, there are seven billion people on the planet right now. It’s actually OK if we don’t make any. The species will continue without our contribution.

Uterus:

Babies.

Brain:

Not. Fucking. Happening.

Uterus:

Bay-Bees.

Brain:

I’m not talking to Hair Guy with the nice cologne.

Not doing it.

Can’t make me.

Uterus:

Ok, ok, so you won’t talk to Hair Guy, what about him?

Brain:

Who?

Uterus:

To our immediate left.

Brain:

Him? No. Not at all.

Uterus:

Why not?

Brain:

Because he’s a friend!

Uterus:

Right! He already loves us and he’s probably bomb in the sack. Best of both worlds!

Kiss him!

Kiss him now!

Brain:

Dude, ew, NO. He’s like our brother.

Uterus:

Babies!

Brain:

No, Uterus, no. We don’t want him. More importantly, he doesn’t want us!

Uterus:

Babies!

Brain:

Get a grip, Uterus.

Uterus:

BABIES!

Brain:

Gawd, I hate it when you get like this.

Uterus:

BABIES! BABIES! BABIES!

Uterus and Brain do not speak for the next ten days.

Not until…

  • Five days before menstruation

Uterus:

Hey! Brain! Hey, Brain, guess what?!

Uterus Plushie available aslo at IHeartGuts.com

Lost Books

In my World Lit course in high school we read a really pulpy crime novel about a narcotics cop in Amsterdam tracking down somebody-or-other, including, but possibly not limited to, the wealthy party girl daughter of some influential, rich American.  All I remember is he found her chained and drugged in a basement or a warehouse or something.  She might have been hanging by her wrists – she might have been dead.

That’s literally all I can remember about the book.  I didn’t finish reading it before we had to hand the books back in and I never went looking for it.  Presumably there was a time when I remember the title and the author, but that was ten years ago and I never tracked it down.  Part of me has always wanted to finish reading it.

Red Wine and A Soak

[This is what I do on Valentine’s Day: write slightly bitchy, super short stories about being single and rubbing the benefits of being so in the faces of Smug Marrieds.  Sometimes I’m an ahole.

No matter how you’re spending today: I hope it’s a good one.  Love you all, Xxx Bex.]

Ashley had spent the better part of the evening being insufferable.  The Bates were very good friends of hers, but Jenny nearly drove a butter knife into their dining room table to keep from lobbing the thing at her sister-in-law’s face.  How her brother had married the biggest bitch from their high school graduating class was completely lost on Jenny.  But Jared was his own person, just because they shared a womb didn’t make them telepathic (although, how cool would that have been?).

“Would anyone care for some coffee, or tea?” asked Wendy Bates, the perfect hostess.

Jenny often told her friend how insanely unfair it was that she should be as gracious, smart, and beautiful as she was when the rest of them were so clumsy, inarticulate, and messy.  Wendy always laughed and told Jenny to stop being silly.

Wendy and her husband, Mark, had grown up in the same neighborhood as Jenny and Jared.  The four of them hadn’t always gotten along, but, by some miracle had remained close ever since Jenny and Wendy teamed up in the third grade to push Jared and Mark into the river behind the old mechanic’s garage.  Somehow that moment was a young Wendy’s way of telling Mark she was going to spend the rest of their lives pushing him into things he’d rather not find himself immersed in.  But because it was Wendy he never minded what sort of shenanigans she got him into.

Jenny loved her friends.

They were one of the only sets of married friends she had who didn’t make her feel like some sort of third wheel.  Jared came in a close second, but Ashley made Jenny feel like she was persona non grata anytime they were together.  Including, but not limited to, Ashley and Jared’s wedding (at which Jenny was the Best Man), joint birthday parties for the brother and sister, and family holidays.  Jenny’s one vicious triumph came from the fact that Ashley and Jared’s kids were already calling Jenny their “fun auntie”.

“Oh, yes, please,” said Ashley with a slight yawn.  “I’m probably going to be the one driving home tonight, thanks to Mr-I’ll-Have-Another-Scotch over here.”  Ashley poked her bony elbow into her husband’s ribs.  “And, Sylvie will probably still be awake when we get home.  We have the neighbor girl watching them,” she said in a stage whisper to Shelley MacIntosh who happened to be sitting near her.  Shelley smiled politely and made awkward eye contact with Jenny.

“Are the neighborhood kids as reliable babysitters as they were when we were kids?” asked Ricky MacIntosh, jokingly.

“Not at all,” replied Ashley as seriously as she assumed Ricky was being.  “I don’t trust this girl as much as I do other babysitters.”

“Like Jenny,” said Jared, aware his friend had been joking, but also wanting to give his sister the praise his wife never would.  “Sylvie is always passed out when Jenny watches them.”

“What’s your secret?” asked Ricky straight up mocking now.

“Sugar crash,” replied Jenny sipping her brother’s scotch before handing it to him.

“What!?” cried Ashley, ready to believe it so she’d have an excuse to stop having Jenny over to watch the kids.

“She’s joking, sweetheart,” Jared assured his wife.  “Knowing Jenny she plays really loud music and makes the kids dance until they’re too tired to move.”

“And what makes you so sure?” asked Mark.

“Because that’s how she always tricked our little cousins into going to bed whenever they insisted they weren’t tired.”

“And Jared, more than a few times,” added his sister, with a wicked grin.

“Is this true, Jared?” asked Ricky.  “Did you have epic DPs with your sister?”

“How do you think I stayed in shape for football over the summers?”

“Certainly wasn’t from working out,” interjected Wendy returning with cups of coffee.

“Thanks, Wen,” said Jared with a grin.

“You danced your cute butt off with us every weekend.  Don’t act like you didn’t enjoy it.”  This time Wendy had the grin.

Ashley was also smiling; Jenny could almost smell the smoke emanating from her ears.  Jenny turned to Shelley.

“How’s your sister doing with the wedding planning?”

“Melanie’s driving me insane,” said Shelley sweetly.  Jenny smiled.  Shelley was her sister’s maid of honor, and helping her plan the wedding.  “Even Mom is getting annoyed.  Every time I’m over there to work on the arrangements Mom has an entire pitcher of vodka martinis waiting and ready.”

“Why?” asked Wendy.  “What is she doing?”

“Remember that Oxygen movie with Laura Prepon and Princess Leia and Not Hot Hispanic guy?”

“The one where the Bridezilla wakes up married to some Mexican kid after catching her husband in bed with the wedding planner and drinking too much tequila?” asked Jenny.

“Yeah, that one,” confirmed Ricky.  Jenny smiled at him, amused.

“She’s actually worse than that girl,” whispered Shelley.  “I almost wish she would catch Tony in bed with the wedding planner so we could end this nightmare.”

Ashley’s eyebrows practically flew off her face, she raised them so quickly.  Jenny wondered if those muscles could get whiplash.

“Aren’t you the wedding planner?” asked Mark saucily.

“Oh!  No!” cried Shelley, realizing the implication.  “I didn’t mean me!”

“We know what you meant, sweets,” said Jenny playfully pulling her friend’s hair.  She hoped the light teasing would stop the ideas she could see turning around in Ashley’s brain.  Obviously Shelley didn’t want to sleep with her little sister’s fiance.  First of all,  Shelley, who liked everyone, enjoyed her future brother-in-law less than she enjoyed planning his wedding with her uptight, type A little sister.  Secondly, Shelley was way too nice to screw over someone she liked less than her little sister, whom, incidentally, she loved fiercely.

“What about you, Jenny?” asked Ashley who could no longer sit around not speaking.  “Are you seeing any one?  It’s almost Valentine’s Day, you know.”

“Do those go together?” asked Mark.

The women ignored him.

“No, I’m not seeing anyone currently.  I’m sure you would have heard, if I were.  You know my mother, can’t keep the murderer on last night’s Law & Order secret.”

“Who taught her how to text?” interrupted Jared.  “I tell her I’m recording it and yet she’s always texting asking if I can believe the killer was so-and-so!”

“I blame Dad,” answered Jenny.

Ashley had a well constructed expression of confusion on her face.

“You’re not seeing anyone?” she asked again.

“No, Ash, I’m not dating anyone.”

“I could have sworn Tammy said she saw you at The Wildwood with a young man.”

“Probably not,” said Jenny, a hard edge to her voice.

“Jenny hates The Wildwood,” added Jared.

“Maybe it wasn’t The Wildwood.  But I’m sure, Tammy said she saw you last weekend at dinner somewhere with a young man.  Chez Antoine’s?  No, that wasn’t it.”

Tammy often mistakes me for that Laurie girl from the Leicester debate team who married then divorced April Bishop last year.  It may have been her she saw,” said Jenny breezily.  She turned back to Wendy and asked about a new piece of art in the hall.

“No, I know,” said Ashley before Wendy could answer.  “It was last Thursday at that new Creole place in Bolton: Limyè.”

“Oh, that?”

“So it was a date?” asked Ashley innocently.

“No.  It wasn’t.”

“Oh.”

“Why would you think it was a date?”

“Something Tammy said,” said Ashley evasively.  And then Jenny remembered what Tammy, Ashley, and her dinner companion all had in common.

“She told you who I was there with, didn’t she?”

“I don’t remember…”

“Yes, you do.”

If Ashley had, like she’d always wanted, the ability to shoot death rays from her eyes, Jenny would have been incinerated on the spot.

“Who were you at dinner with?” Jared asked his sister.

Feeling like a colossal jerk, Jenny smiled kindly at her brother.

“That’s my business, brother dear.”  She turned back to Wendy, determined to salvage the pleasant evening.  “You got that painting at the auction last month?”

The following hour and a quarter went smoothly.  The friends engaged in happy conversation about current events, politics, and the Olympics.  Jenny and the men swirled their scotch and waters and discussed hockey while the women discussed the handsome ski jumper from that snowy country they couldn’t remember the name of and the ice dancers costumes from the night before.  Finally it was time for everyone to go.

“Time to get back to the children, hubby,” crooned Ashley when Jenny appeared with her coat and purse.  “So stressful, isn’t it, parenthood?” said Ashley to Shelley whose perfect two year old had probably been sound asleep for the sitter for at least two hours.

“Not really,” said Shelley, sweetly.

“Wait till they get older.  Sometimes I just don’t know what to do with Tyler.  He has so much energy.”

“He’s a big fan of P!nk,” pipped up Jenny.  “Boy could dance to her all night long.”

Ashley smiled like she was holding in a fart.  Ashley had aired loud opinions Senior year when Jenny, Wendy, Mark, Ricky, and Jason Marquez went to a P!nk concert instead of attending the Senior Reception.  It didn’t help that Ashley, who never didn’t have a date to any event, had the biggest schoolgirl crush on Jason Marquez.  Her sense of self-entitlement and superiority to the loud-mouthed, tomboy Jenny Davis made it impossible for her to understand how Jason Marquez could possible prefer Jenny’s company to hers.  He was far too handsome and destined for success later in life to waste his time with the geeky, crass, unwashed, ready to skip very important events Jenny Davis.  He ought to, she was sure, be spending time with a like-minded, ambitious, regularly showered girl like herself who saw the value of traditions like the Senior Reception.

But everything worked out in the end.  Jared Davis proved to be as successful as everyone thought Jason Marquez was going to be; plus, he went to school on a football scholarship and very successfully obtained his MBA.  But Jenny was still a force to be reckoned with.

“Jenny, I don’t really think P!nk is appropriate for young children.”

“Come on, Ash,” said her husband.  “You play the clean versions, right?”

“Of course!  You can look over the playlist anytime you want Ashley.  I promise there’s nothing inappropriate for Tyler and Sylvie on there.”

“Oh, I trust you, Jenny,” condescension dripped from each of Ashley’s words.  “Jared, we really must be going.  Home.  To our house.  And our children.”

“Thanks for a lovely evening,” said Jenny to Wendy and Mark.  “I really must be off as well.  I’ve allotted at least an hour before bed for drinking red wine and soaking, uninterrupted, in the tub.  Talk to you soon, bro,” she added to Jared, and sailed out the door.

That’s your favorite book? I’ll have to check it out!

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Rachel Sugar over at The Date Report wrote this piece: All the Books I Lied About Reading to Impress Guys (And Then Read Anyway).  It’s pretty funny.  And: who hasn’t read something because the person we like said they did?  I’ve done it.  Dudes have done it for me.  And it’s always weird.

Although, if you’re lucky, you can get a good read out of the situation.  Unlike Sugar, I’ve had an OK reading experience when I’ve read a book because a dude told me it was his fave.  Not on my top ten.  I haven’t read either book a second time.  But they weren’t bad.  The first one was Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut.  The Dastardly Pirate who recommended it to me wasn’t aghast when I said I hadn’t read any Vonnegut, but he claimed I would like him.  After that conversation I went out and bought Bluebeard and read it immediately.  I didn’t hate it.  I didn’t love it.  I still haven’t read anything else by Vonnegut, but it was an interesting read and I appreciated it.  I also found it extremely interesting that the Pirate’s favorite book is a story about a cantankerous artist who did the art that everyone else was doing because everyone was doing it until it started falling apart.

The other book I’ve read “because it’s his favorite book”, he actually gave to me as a Christmas present.  We were barely dating and I didn’t think presents were necessary, but he showed up days after Christmas with a pair of earrings he made for me and a copy of John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row.  For our relationship, this wasn’t promising.  The TMM wanted me to give Steinbeck a second chance (because I hate him more than the overturned turtle hates crossing the road).  I think the vehemence in my speech concerning Steinbeck made him sad.  He assured me I “didn’t have to read” the book, and certainly not “right away”, but he fucking gave me his favorite book as a present: of course I had to read it.  I didn’t hate it nearly as much as I hate both The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men.  I understood his point about the language being beautiful (I even cried at the end, it was so lovely), but I knew our relationship was doomed as I started to see the TMM in both Doc and Mack (or vice versa).  Even though my eyes were beginning to open, I held onto that relationship for far longer than I ought to have.

Sugar’s life lessons learned from reading books for dudes were: “be yourself” and “you are not Charles Bukowski’s target audience” (amen).  Mine is: don’t read his favorite book unless you’re sure you want to know these things about him.  At the time we all thought it was super sexy when Jess Mariano wrote margin notes in Rory Gilmore’s copy of “Howl”, but now that we’re grown and more experienced we all know it was fucking punk move.  Any dude who wants to color your experience with a text is a thoughtless doofus.  As Sugar points out: “…identical reading lists are not the key to romantic compatibility”.  Neither, as it turns out, is being from the same area or playing the same instrument (which I already knew from high school: I never found the boys who played the same instrument as me attractive – unless he was Brazilian).  It takes more than liking the same books, or music, or movies, or comic book villains, or ethnic food, or historical era, or African songbirds to make a healthy relationship.

Murder Most Fictional

When I was about twelve years old I had a dream in which my Step-Mother was murdered like Slutty Girl #1 in a slasher film.  I was on the telephone with the killer and heard the whole thing go down.  I was helpless standing in a lane separated from a meadow by a wooden fence.  The dream was interesting considering I haven’t got a Step-Mother, unless there’s something my family has failed to share with me, cell phones weren’t the norm in 1997, and somehow I could see what was going on as well as hear it.  It was very Hitchcockian.  She was in a shower.

It was then I decided I read too many murder mysteries.

Mercedes.

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2013-12-03 15.40.42

Two cars, both alike in dignity,
In scuzzy Marlborough, where we lay our scene,
Two machines rolled off the same factory floor,
Hardly different, except in name,
A tweak, here and there,
A white stripe here, a taillight there,
Something internal different from the other.
Minute, yet grand enough to cause those
That care to believe one superior to the other.
While the C280 protests it’s worthiness
To, at least, equal the C300.
A cursory glance tells the passersby the two are but the same:
Black sedan, silver; same decal
Centrally adorned
Only closer inspection, as through the
Cafe window, shows the subtle
Differences.  So subtle, but great enough.
The owner of the right
Tediously argues it’s merits and the
Shortcomings of the left.
While weary hearers heave heavy sighs.
She who arrived on foot finds the conversation
One-sided and boring.  She takes up her
Knitting, begins her audiobook,
Drowns out the empty, mechanical details.
Knit one, purl one, while
Neil Gaiman sonorously tells her tales.

— Rebecca

Slate Magazine | “Not Helpful: Making kids read The Help is not the way to teach them about the civil rights struggle” by Jessica Roake

Slate Magazine | Not Helpful: Making kids read The Help is not the way to teach them about the civil rights struggle. by Jessica Roake

Yes, absolutely.  Thinking The Help by Kathryn Stockett is a good “primary text” for exploring the American Civil Rights movement is stupid.  Using it as an introduction, especially for students who don’t live in Mississippi (or the South), sure, I buy it.  It’s not the best book out there, it’s not the most accurate story of southern apartheid, but it is an easy read and covers certain aspects that are relevant to beginning to explore the Civil Rights Movement.

Teachers would be better off assigning I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, or Invisible Man to explore these topics; 100% agree with Ms Roake on this point.  And, while I agree with her point that The Help is a gross oversimplification of what the 1960s were like for black people in Jackson, Mississippi, I’d like to point out that Stockett wasn’t writing a novel about black people in the 1960s: she was writing a novel about the black women who raised white babies.  No, she could not remove the story and the characters from the context of the times, and she certainly strove to create an atmosphere of fear, hatred, injustice, inequality, and danger for her characters.  She included the unnecessary beatings and murders of black people by whites, the high distrust of well-intended white people by blacks, and the ridiculous sense of superiority and entitlement that white people possessed (Skeeter’s mother, for example, fires a hard worker because of a slight from another person, ignoring years of dedication).

But reading the book out of context of the author’s intent is negligent on the part of the reader, and teacher, if we’re assigning it to students.  Stockett was, herself, raised by a black maid in the 1970s, as an adult she took a good look at that relationship and wondered about it.  In her, yes oversimplified, novel she is discussing a piece of American history, a piece of American reality, that doesn’t get much attention.  I have lived my entire life in an area where, if we have nanny’s, they’re part time or Brazilian.  Growing up I didn’t know a single person with a dedicated nanny, lots of babysitters, sure, but not one of my friends had someone who came in every day explicitly to clean their home and make sure they were fed.  If parents couldn’t care for their child, it was because they were working and their kids were in day care, or spent their afternoons at the Boy’s Club.  I have no firsthand knowledge.  As an adult, I have met people who were “raised by the help”.  I’ve had students and campers who see their hired help more than their actual family; I know a white, southern woman who phones the black woman who raised her every Mother’s Day before she phones her actual mother.  But, even still, this is a foreign concept for me.  That this still happens was news to me; and that these people are, often, still treated like second (or third) class citizens, is saddening.  And, for people like me, with no firsthand knowledge, Stockett’s novel is actually quite useful.

Stockett, a privileged, white, Southern lady, wasn’t necessarily intending to write a seminal novel on Southern Apartheid or the Civil Rights Movement, as far as I can tell, she was writing about the black women who raise white babies.  She was writing about that relationship, how strong it is, how it affects both the caretaker and the child.  Skeeter, we see, doesn’t turn to her mother for love and affection, she goes to Constantine for motherly support.  And she sees how unjustly her maternal figure is treated by the people who owe her, the people who hired her to care for their child so they wouldn’t have to.  The Help is a story about women whose main difference is the color of their skin – it’s about these women sticking together and sticking up for one another.

Were I (when I am) a literature teacher broaching the topic of Civil Rights, I might use The Help to introduce the topic, but I certainly wouldn’t stop there.  I’d want to impress upon my students the other issues of the novel as well, ones that also still exist.  Hired help are still sometimes treated horribly by their employers, even to the point of enslavement.  Many of the issues discussed in the novel have not been resolved in our country, they merely don’t get any attention.  The only reason The Help is used as a text to discuss the Civil Rights Movement is because of it’s setting.  If it were set in 2000, it would be a different story.  A still relevant story, but a different story, nonetheless.   Let’s not forget what a novel is about, please; let’s not try to make it something it isn’t.