I'm Stephanie.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

post xv: Fictional Thoughts

So this past week, my fiction workshop instructor, Christian Winn (of the Winnstitute) instructed us to write five opening lines for potential stories.  He has some greater master scheme I know, but for now we were supposed to write five.
This is pretty hugely both out of my comfort zone, yet exactly how I must operate, at least sporadically.  Usually I get characters in my head, and they're practically a part of me.  I know them before I write them.  I'm less plot driven than character driven, and this can certainly be a weakness.
But I hear dialogue.  I hear voices.  I hear them slighting another person, or apologizing for something they didn't do.  I know what keeps them up at night, or what makes them want to go to sleep at nine PM because consciousness is so much harder than sleep if you're good at it (ooh shit, am I speaking from experience?)
So doing this was strange.  The voice and the direction of action must be present all at once.  Again, this is exactly the kind of discipline I need.  Usually, I bake cookies with my characters, I read with them in mind, I run with them, I think of how they would react when others speak or act, I think about what they would order at a bar and how they would hold their drink.  I consider their needs, their values.  Would they rather be safe, or in a constant state of uncertainty?  In love with someone who didn't love them back, or not in love with someone who was insane for them?  Do they believe in life after death?  In cosmic order, or perpetual disarray?  Would they enjoy a cigarette on the long commute to work in LA?  Would they be listening to Eat Pray Love on audio?  Or Hegel's Aesthetics on audio?

(Bennie's character map from A Visit from the Goon Squad)

However independent I feel my characters are, I know that I am, in whatever capacity, inside of them, and to say they operate totally independently of me would be bullshit.  Do they operate independently of any of my conscious efforts?  Most of the time, yes.  But the unconscious?  There's no way.
Whatever projections of my characters materialize, I know there is always a deep rooted (or shallow-rooted) part of me that is fueling them.  Obviously.

But what happens when you take away the ability to know a character without having written a single word?:

1. My parents always said: "There are two kinds of people: those who masturbate and those who lie."
2. The day I lost my virginity to Wyatt, he bought me Space Jam on DVD.
3. My wife and I have had a passive-aggressive war of toilet paper attrition going for three years.
4. Each day, I inject my boss' midsection with insulin.
5. We buried Rosie's stillbirth puppies somewhere near the Hot Springs.

What happens is what I would consider to be largely superficial crap.  But are they offshoots for stories?  Yeah, they would work that way.
I find that when not faced with the immediate starting off point that includes the intricacies of a character I've been living beside, that I tend to go for humor, but I know that humor for me is two things:
1.) It is humor as a whole, unobstructed by life's bitterness, perhaps existing only in opposition to the acridity of human experience
2.) and then there is humor that is constantly holding life's bitterness in regard.
Both can be good.
(Holy shit, just realized human, humor.  Whooooa....maybe, not really.)

But then I have to ask myself, why write fiction at all?  What makes good fiction?  Isn't the important thing to just write, and test yourself, and allow for growth regardless of the outcome?  Even if that growth feels like regression.  If you're writing, you are growing.  If you're spending all of your time lying and fabricating, eventually, inevitably, the pendulum swings back and you land upon truth.

But imagining what people do, creating them and their motions, doesn't necessarily make you a writer.  It is still a craft, and regardless of intentions or artistic flurries of thought, there is a sentence-by-sentence deliberacy.
Just found these "8 Basics of Creative Writing" written by Kurt Vonnegut:
  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water. (ditto)
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action. (Yes!)
  5. Start as close to the end as possible. (whaaat!  YES!)
  6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia. (!!!)
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
These are perfect.  Vonnegut basically sucked any remaining words from me for now.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

post xiv: Youth and Morning Deconstructed

About exactly a year ago now, I "finished" a set of poems I referred to as "Youth Morning."  In discussing these poems with Martin Corless-Smith, poet, professor, and friend, it became apparent to me that without my intentions, I had become fixated on youth and young adulthood.  I saw mornings as symbolically synonymous with youth, in that both are a time of hope, thought, newness, plans, and ideally, of awareness.  Inversely, youth and mornings are potentially also a representative of a time of horror, anxiety, dreaded weight of the future day (or lifespan), and of wanting to go back - to bed / to dreaming, or to early childhood / infancy / safety / a place of no obligation or judgement.  Being in bed, and being a small child have a lot in common it seems, but perhaps I'm stretching metaphor for my own current use.
Both youth and mornings are also the times to ask and to decide who you are and who you want to be and to fulfill this want through action.  Both are times to get shit done, so to speak.  To allow experiences to stack up so that the day as a whole has a greater worth than it would have if you breezed through the morning (slash-youth).
Very simply though, the mornings were the time I found myself writing the most often, and I think this is largely where this comparison arose.  This comparison also works for me and may not work for others though because I am a rabid morning person.  Even after a hard long night of studying, working, or um, partying I guess, I never skip my mornings.  I need the perpetual renewal, more than I need breakfast...although breakfast often does call to me.  I also need and crave the (seemingly contradictory) predictable newness.
I need for the newness of the morning to always be there, because the newness on the greater scale of a lifetime will not and cannot always be there.  I'm coming deeper and deeper into my skin and my identity, and for the most part I feel really good about it.  But I do, truly at times, miss the volatility of adolescence.  At times, I miss the fire.  How my emotions always had the safety off.  How I truly did not "give a fuck" (although this was largely due to a seething depression which I still carry the now-manageable remnants of) and all at once gave the biggest, most heart-felt fucks imaginable.  Often, I saw the world as cruel, unmanageable, nonsensical, callous, unjust, conformist, violent, and potentially-hopeless.  This would twist my guts so deeply that I would be paralyzed in despair and in fear that I was created to be a part of this very world of corruption, cruelty, and conformity.  Needless to say, I ditched a lot of high school because I was overwhelmed by my perceived realities.  High school itself was very much a construction of these horrors.
The thing is though, I think I was often right.

I remember being asked in eating disorder counseling if I would "rather be happy" or would I "rather be right."  I remember answering definitively, passionately, that I'd rather be right
I was more certain of things as an adolescent than I am now.  Maybe I was more "right."  I was vegan, anti-corporate, hyper-liberal, and could see the utter failings of the systems set in place for me to follow.  I still carry remnants of these things as well, but now it is with more compassion than vigilance, more personal rationalism than rebellion, and I am fully aware of my own obedient role within several systems.

At 24, it's difficult to say that I'm fully away from youth, but I feel that it is inching away in subtle increments.  Some of these increments make me sad.  Some make me relieved.  All of them make me feel, bit by bit, different.  Some aspects of youth, I don't expect to ever lose, because I think they've been misclassified as youthful characteristics.  But some, such as walking over a major bridge in Boise with mostly-empty wine cartons in my purse, publicly smoking a joint (in anti-weed-crazy Idaho) with a boy I've just met before toppling back to on-campus housing is probably something I won't do again (well, not exactly).
Student housing; bright colors and Totoro posters:

Being female, I feel that youth is played up far too much for the usual sexist considerations of beauty, virginity, and innocence.  As much as we live in a sexist, often-racist society, we also live in a society that lumps agism deeply into that equation.
What writing the poems about these times has enabled me to do, is to not take these aspects of the female youth experience for granted, as I did as an actual female youth, usually too busy wallowing in an issue of global importance to notice how loved and how liked I actually was, or that I too, was one of the mystical creatures known as the female youth.
The speakers of the poems, not me at any age, but a separate created "I" at times containing flecks of my self, are fully aware of the power that rests in being young, pure, attractive, and as a result, manipulative.  The speakers of the poems seem to operate in a subversion of the innocent to create a knowing power, as many women/girls in real life and in literature have done and will continue to do.
 When writing the poems, early in the mornings before work/school in Boise, sipping on coffee and soy milk, munching on fruit, I'd often feel as though I had a certain level of control over time and perception.  I felt like with the poems I had created a stronger "I" than I truly was, and yet that this "I" also existed fairly and equally to the "real" I.  There are only remnants of the paralytic depression and self-loathing, but what comes through the most is an operative power - a prowess, a knowing, an invisible manipulator, and an awareness of this power that can only come after the time has been spent.  I'm not saying I've ever been some kind of uber-goddess of sexuality and allure, but most young girls, with or without being aware of it, are to at least some extent, and this notion is played up and perpetuated by poetic, literary, and cultural archetypes.

Hoooooly shit, what am I talking about....oh!  Youth!  Morning!
K, moving on.
Anyhow, I feel like these poems were written right as I was at the cusp of entering into yet another more actualized phase of adulthood, or at least of something that isn't adolescence, and that I had to write them to get me there.  I had to leave bits of youth behind, and if I had to idealize some of those bits then so be it.  The poems are honest in their way, and in their belated perceptions and awarenesses, and that's all I could have hoped for in constructing them.  I'm not saying they're "good."  But I learned a lot from writing them, and I'm both comforted and frightened by their honesty.

Really, the meat of what I wanted to talk about, is that I feel like I've yet again hit another towering gorge of adult-ness, and have left some fragments of youth behind.  As mentioned before, I'm seeing it now because of summer hitting in Boise, and summer being the time when I first moved here.  Summer is how I first saw Boise, 3 years ago, and how I first lived Boise.  I moved here utterly on impulse and initially lived on the couch in a straight-edge friend's studio apartment.  He also got me a job at Journey's at the mall, which surprisingly ended up becoming a little bit of a family for a time.  I remember when my friend, Alisha (supposedly it was her) left the AC on for too long and it busted, so we spent some days selling Converse, DCs, and Toms shimmering in sweat.
I rode my bike everywhere, and hung out downtown, meeting new people and going on mini-adventures before the weight of Fall and the weight of class loads really hit (they hit hard, as I was bound and determined to kick as much academic ass as possible).  I went to shows at "Grandma's House," and the "208 House," even though I would be totally confused on how to get to each of them for a long time yet.  
I met a boy and let him in, and those were their own experiences.  I sort of moved in with him for a time in Nampa, Idaho into a house that had its very own purple beer pong table personalized with homemade "Bud Light" stencils (maybe it was "Budweiser" or something else...)
Later, I'd meet other boys, and those were also their own experiences.  I became familiar with Boise and Nampa in their own contexts, each remaining kitschy their own ways for a good amount of time (I officially no longer see either as kitschy).


So three years have passed here in Idaho, and not only with the incoming summer, but with the fact that my time in Boise is almost over, I am reflecting a great deal on these past three years.  I am seeing how different, and how the same I am, from when I first moved here.

It's interesting - words weigh so heavily.... youth.... Youth Lagoon.  I never really listened to Youth Lagoon (though I knew they were gaining status) until this past year, and I realized I mostly wanted to listen to them because of their name.  I was hoping for an actual lagoon of youth, and that is what I got.  Listening to the album, "The Year of Hibernation" again and again and again has really been cementing these reflections, and I fully believe music or books come to you, or you come to them, at appropriate times.
It's strange and beautiful how things fall into place, and I'm happy to be who I am, adult or not, youth or not, but containing the multitudes within for each, that may be continuously changing.  I'm grateful for Boise, grateful for writing, grateful for experience, and so grateful for my own tendency to now cherish, at least most mornings.  I'm grateful for all of the times when I have, and haven't had, figurative balls.  I'm grateful for those I've loved and who have loved me back.  I'm grateful for all of the poems, that have failed, succeeded, and even those who have died a stillbirth.  I'm grateful for the changes, and for the stagnations.  It's 11:53am.  And I am grateful.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

post xiii: Pinterest: What the Fuck Does it All Mean?

Since graduation, I've been a bit aimless - aimless by my own standards, meaning I haven't been wildly productive, I haven't been working steadily, haven't been reading enormous amounts of poetic and literary theory, haven't been writing for deadlines because it is required of me, haven't been seeking publication as I should be doing (I can hardly swallow the chalky bitterness of the word should), and haven't even been, overall, making the most of this window of time where I can do whatever the fuck I want...within reason.

But I have been reading shitloads of fiction and poetry.  I have been writing some, but certainly not nearly enough.
I have been invited to and have presented at the NULC, where I felt intensely in my element.
I have been accepted into the best MFA program I could have hoped for, and have enrolled in CU Boulder's graduate school.
I have been working out, taking care of my body, and feeding it appropriately, and trying to grow my perpetually-pixie esque hair back into the mane it was at age 13.
I have made even more new friends, and am so grateful for everyone I meet, so that in friendship we can compliment each others' experiences in being alive.  That may sound like a bit much...but that is what friendship, in a nutshell, is to me.
Something else that I have done, in tandem with my acquisition of a real life SmartPhone, has been that I have joined Pinterest.
...And holy fuck...what, oh what, does Pinterest mean?

At first, I was like, yay recipes!  Here's an easy, neat way of organizing the things I want to make, and the things I have made and will make again, and the pictures are all straight-up food porn.  So initially, I was mildly excited, like, Oh fuck yeah, I didn't know you could do that with eggplant!  Mmm, yes an all-mushroom board!  This person knows their shit...Holy balls that's a cool looking cake!  I must make it...

But soon, it became that cake is really fuckin' cool, but I could never make it, and would never want to make it,, but I'm going to 'pin' it anyway so that I can look at it and think...'that cake is really fuckin' cool, but I could never make it, and would never want to make it, but I'm going to...' and so on and so on and so on, and I get caught in these spinning wheels of thought that only Pinterest could have awoken in me.  Even the "P" symbol for Pinterest displays a sort of circular kind of insanity that makes me think immediately of my thought processes as I've skimmed boards and hit "Repin" apparently 1, 073 times, pressed "Like" 47 times, and "Create Board" 32 times.  I have a board called "Whales" because I can't fucking get over Moby Dick.
But wouldn't the better thing to do, when I can't get fucking over something be to write about it?  To run it out?  Instead of to pin about it?  Another new verb in a new context.  "To pin."  I just barely got comfortable with Facebook's new set of verbs, and the idea that so many verbs can exist in a space that we cannot even touch, taste, or walk through.
But now there is "to pin," which should evoke some sort of action due to its role as verb, but it seems to be much more about the undoing or delaying of actual action in an actual world. 

I see the point for those who are actually industrious, and who do actually plan things like weddings and baby ensembles for an actual baby, but I am a future grad student coming to terms with the fact that I am sometimes intimidated by myself, and my thoughts, and even by my own past successes, and have been using Pinterest as an escape.  This is not, I repeat, not, healthy, because according to Pinterest's inspirational pins, "Happiness is when what you say and what you do are the same thing."  And would I have admitted before now, without the protective wrapping that writing offers me, that I've been dicking around on Pinterest most mornings since graduating?  No.  I would not.

So I've used their pro-tips on how to make all-natural peppermint spider repellent, and how to clear a drain with baking soda and vinegar.  I've organized outfits that I've actually emulated in real life, and I've been truly pleased by some of the creativity Pinterest has to offer.  Sometimes it can be fun to connect with others.  I made my mom a "Mom" board that's just full of the things that I think would make her happy, like lemon cheesecake recipes and Bichon Frise puppies.

And there surely must be a place in the universe for things like this:

But the fact remains that I am not a healthier, happier, more fashionable, more fit, nor most of all, more inspired person for having begun using Pinterest.  If anything, I am on my ass for longer in the morning, and am less inspired as instead of reading poems on my porch swing outside with coffee, I am looking at porch swings that are more beautiful than mine on Pinterest, and am in the pursuit of the perfect ab workout, but most importantly, the perfect image to represent said workout.

I kind of can't help but seeing Pinterest as just another way in which humans are obsessed with territoriality and materiality, but the funny thing is, that there is no real territory, and no real material, just the material Pinterest represents.  So we claim the representations.  We own advertisements.  We create "Boards" and try to reach some accumulation of something notable within ourselves, when really, we might be letting ourselves down.

I certainly do think there is a place in this world for tuning out, for making plans that may never happen, for daydreaming, for just looking at pretty things for awhile...but am I alone in voicing that it can get out of control?  That instead of making people happier and more industrious or creative, it can just be that sort of diversion that keeps you from your own self and your own actual experiences?  I'm sure not, as when one types in "pinterest" to Google search, "pinterest addiction" comes up fairly readily.  But what is this "addiction" telling us?   What about ourselves wants to stake such claims upon materiality in an intangible realm, wants to apply verbage to a place where action can't exist and thusly avoid real action?  And to be susceptible to an "addiction" characterized by a fixation on doing exactly this?

Why are we so obsessed with diversion, and thusly sharing these diversions with the cyber versions of our friends, building our cyber egos, and creating boards of diverse and pleasing self representation when the actual self is just clicking and staring, repeatedly, believing they are building some kind of legitimate foundation for self?

Emma Watson, she's so pretty, gonna pin her; POGS!  I had POGS, gonna pin POGS; Fucking balls I wanna be rich rich rich and have a pool grotto, but who will clean the pool grotto?  That would suck.  Hiring someone would just be contributing to social stratification, but so would having a pool grotto in the first place.  Shit.  I guess having a pool grotto would be absolutely terrible.  Fuck it, I'm pinning it.  Ohhh man I need a food dehydrator so I can make my own flax chips and go on an all raw foods diet and get glowing skin and stronger nails and OH FUCK IT I can just take Biotin and pin it!  Yes, Biotin, and put olive oil and oats and cat drool in my hair so it will be so shiny and grow as fast as Rihanna's seems to with her fucking extensions and that super cool eye makeup from that pin that I pinned the shit out of, like when I pinned the shit out of those Henry David Thoreau quotes and those super cool DIY things with the...

Meh, I'm all out of thoughts about Pinterest for now.  I feel like I proved no point, but that isn't gonna bug me.  Not talking about how weird I think Pinterest is getting was going to bug me.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

post xii: Fetish Fiction

Fiction is usually my means of sorting through things that I'm not ready (or that I don't have the direct connection to) to attack through a poem, which is so intimate.  Or that I feel needs a more direct and more stilted grammar than a poem expects.  I use fiction to delve into things that aren't yet realized within me.  That I don't understand, but that I want to make understood to some capacity, or at least let my characters understand so that I can sit back and not have to think about it so much.  Poems are more organic.  Fiction for me often arises out of analysis.
For instance, within the past several months, I've written two fiction stories revolving around fetish communities, (not including a spur of the moment 300 word piece for Revolver).  Largely, this was spurred by thoughts I've had about modern sexuality, concerning what is and isn't too much and who really, can decide.  Is there a too much?  Is there a boundary?  I feel like some would say there is no boundary.  There are no true taboos in the world of internet porn and Craigslist ads calling for 400 dollar an hour film sessions in your small town.  But I can't help but get a chill when I think about the realities of some fetishes, the reality of most pornography, and the realities of many taboos created and lost and the selves that are involved.

Fortunately, I don't have to present on any of these pieces at the upcoming National Lit Conference (which I'm terrified/thrilled for), where I need to present some other stuff.  I feel like I wouldn't really know what to say...that the characters could explain it better than I could, and yet I'm somehow the voice that explains it through them, and still I couldn't explain it without them.

But anyhow, the first of these stories (the fetish ones) is about a young couple who are experimenting with an online fetish community, and eventually attend a real-life fetish event.  As a couple, they approach it with maturity and see the enactments of their fantasies as completely healthy.  However, they do encounter some emotional reservations, as can be expected, especially when group sex is involved.  My main male character ends up meeting a woman, the dominatrix who owns the house where the party takes place, and basically they have a conversation about their feelings, outside in the snow, wearing latex and chains, while his girlfriend is in the basement having an experience with others (which as a couple as a part of the subculture, they've presumably agreed, is natural).  But the question remains hovering about whether any of it is natural.  If there even is a definition of what is natural.  If nothing and everything all at once are natural or unnatural or neither.  It becomes difficult to draw a line between what's acceptable and what isn't, especially in a consensual mature disease-free situation where the participants have regular jobs, families, and identities, and who are professional and tactful in their outer spheres, and who are a part of a sexual subculture in their private spheres

But the story isn't so much about fetishes as it is about moral boundaries and what defines them.  Does a moral boundary depend on only perception?  Does it depend on anything at all?  Does it mean not causing another pain?  What if they want that pain and ask for it?  Now I risk heading into dangerous moral territory (if I haven't already...it depends on you).  But again, this is why I chose fiction for this subject.  I couldn't leave it alone, and I couldn't (and wouldn't want to) experiment as my own self.  So I created others to experiment, and they basically received no answers, and only more questions.  This may be a dissatisfying ending.  But to me, it was a real ending, and yes, dissatisfying also.  Nothing is resolved or answered.  Each character is a little more knowledgeable, a little more contemplative, and a little more experienced, but they still don't know what their moral positioning precisely is.  Still, I'd much rather get some thoughts out of me through imagined dialogue, setting, and character quirks than through an all-out analysis (though I do love an all-out analysis) when it comes to a sexual subculture.  This kind of thing needs human voices and reactions and contradictions in a way an analysis can't provide.

It makes enormous sense to me in the research I'm doing right now about Herman Melville's friendship with Nathaniel Hawthorne to survey the process of writing fiction as approaching divinity, as "playing god," as creating in order to understand but not necessarily control.   Writing can definitely seem to be encroaching upon the territory of the divine even if the subject matter doesn't immediately present itself as bearing that much levity.  I though, tend to find that all human experience does.  We are confounding little beasts.

The other of the two pieces is darker.  It's about a bar I went to in Tucson with some girlfriends.  We went on a whim, not knowing what the strange yellow boxy establishment had inside, but it ended up being this over-the-top crass bar with an actual sex dungeon in the basement.  We had our own little sort of nerve-wracking time there (outside of the basement).  Something about the space alone made us feel vulnerable, and none of us are women who like to feel vulnerable, or who can be made to feel vulnerable often.  The characters in that story, however, do experience most of what that bar and its dungeon have to offer.  They're twenty years old with fake IDs, wishing they were in a bigger city with bigger parties, but this bar is the most happening place, so they go and experience it for what it's worth.  But again, this story is all about moral boundaries and how morality cannot really be dictated by others unless it is causing harm without consent.  This story has actual violence and blood and even burning, but there isn't anyone there who is participating against their will, including the twenty year old girls.

Still, I couldn't get myself to go into that basement, so I made characters who do, and I still felt a little sick about what I put them through, and the way I experimented with their emotions.

I really don't do well with journaling.  Journaling doesn't allow me the truth-seeking that the elemental lies of fiction do allow me, and so freely.  Come up with enough lies, and eventually you might get to the truth.  Or maybe you were always right on top of it and could never see it.  Fiction writing is a gift that, while I'm not pursuing it for my MFA, that I am tremendously grateful to be perpetually exercising.  Even if I'm not always writing it and turning it into this letter-laced form it ultimately demands, I am always using what it has taught me to dig for a truth, and for more often than not, several truths, all equally true at once.
Anyhow, I am grateful for these computer keys and their expressive potentials, knowing that we -  myself and these letters upon this white blogspace page - are more or less, on each others' side.
Fiction allows me to not take a stance, but to create voices that test their own waters.  Taking a stance can often be a pretty dishonest thing to do on something one doesn't understand, and won't admit that they don't understand, so fiction is there to endorse honesty, and at least an attempt at understanding.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

post xi: Our Two Very Inadequate Options: Man or Woman (pt.1)

I grew up surrounded by amazing men.  My dad is the ultimate daddy - a suit-and-tie businessman, who loves his big screen TV, home-cooked meals, gets flowers for his wife on Mother's Day, Valentine's Day, and her Birthday, and loves his baby girl (uhh, me) to death.  He'd threaten every prospective and new boyfriend with an excellent penetrating coldness, at least initially.  "They all start on the 'shit-list' and have to work their way off it", says Dad.

(oooh that's mah name behind my Diddy...gettin honors and shit)

My dad is the reason that I've had the freedom to become what I'm becoming - hopefully, a writer and one day a professor, and right now, a prospective graduate student of Poetry.  He is also the reason why I have the freedom to explore my own thoughts as I do, through poetry, fiction, this blog, and my interactions with other people, my interactions with and within myself, as well as the self that I am free to project.  I will never not be loved.  And I will never not be supported.
A large part of this has to do with who we are within our gender roles.  No matter how much I've tried to deny it, I am my dad's little girl.  Always will be.  I will not be my dad's "uninfluenced by gender, flexible individual offspring."  I am "little girl," and truthfully, I love this role, just as I know my dad loves the role of "Diddy," as I like to call him.

(trying to be just like Dad fixing cars)

Succumbing to roles doesn't necessarily make us weak or brainwashed.  It can make ourselves, and someone else, very happy, as well as feel safe.  The hard part is when the roles become dogmatic, and put unwanted pressures upon each side to remain unbending, even when a situation may call for a bendable self.  While I love my daddy-daughter relationship, I do not want to be seen by everyone as a little girl.  Or just as a girl or woman at the forefront, and all of the things that go along with being a "girl"/"woman."  I want to be seen as a person, but the truth remains that when we see another person for the first time, or maybe every time, the first thing we see is "male" or "female" before we just see "person" (at least, this is true for me).  "That guy," "That girl," "The lady in the red...," "The guy holding the baby panda."  Again, this isn't necessarily bad, but I feel like we put far too much identity pressure upon gender (especially when so many people can't identify as solely male, or solely female).

I never felt fully like I only belonged in the female.  I've always had mostly male relatives, and even mostly male best friends growing up.  The only girlfriends I've ever held onto for a long time (you know who you are) don't fit precisely behind the line of only female, just as the guy friends I've held onto don't fit behind their line of only male.

(Typical.  Surrounded by boys.  The first of many naked phases, I'm sure.)

The point, the point, yes the point.  And I'm certainly NOT the first to express this dissatisfaction: We have limited options - MALE or FEMALE.  So when we feel dissatisfied with our expected role, it seems like the only alternative is to branch to the other side, when I can't help but feeling like it's the sides themselves that are so detrimental to the formation of complete unhindered identities.  Yet, it's also these sides that offer many such an immediate place of comfort and supposed self-recognition.  But it's a problem when for so many others, these sides only offer societal estrangement, and even a deprecating sense of vulnerability.  This entire paragraph was "buts," "yets," and "howevers," and I feel like these words kind of define the entire struggle I'm talking about.  This whole topic is really too complicated to be remotely linear, but I think we all need to talk about it and at least explore how we treat gender in our own spheres.  We're all connected somehow, and if we can be aware of at least our own projections and our own relations with others and with ourselves, then maybe gender can bend a little bit more and more, in a way that is more natural rather than shocking, so even if the binary does continue to exist (as it will), it can be as more of an optional guideline rather than the force responsible for formulating entire identities.  We are too complex for this.

I'm not remotely surprised that we've elected a Black president, before a female president.  Having a Black president does not change the dogmatic infrastructure set in place, in the penetrating way that having a female president would.  No matter what "Other"s societies may configure for themselves and people who are different from them, I see the greatest source of "Otherness" as being the relations we have in place between men and women.  Every other difference, cultural, ethnic, and even ethical, takes a backseat to the divide present between "male" and "female."

Even my brothers, who were always pretty (for lack of a better word) "macho" have been good to me overall, and I've been able to observe them, not feeling like I'm looking up to them exactly, but always like I was learning something crucial from them.  From them, I had a pretty good inside look at what it's like to be raised in the masculine and have masculine pressures.  Although I would squirm at some of the things they would say while getting ready to go out, mostly about girls, in the bathroom next to my room, I was learning valuable things about being a woman, and also, about being a man.

Growing up, I didn't really look up to anyone (except for maybe this older girl in ice skating, but that was mostly because she was both beautiful and defiant with a really tremendous rack which must have made it difficult to skate).  Instead, I looked to others, at others, observed, and absorbed.

I'm going to make this post a "pt. 1" because there is more I want to get into, always more.  Please comment if you have any further insights you want to bring up, any disagreements, or anything you feel about this topic.  Agreements and disagreements are equally welcome.  I want to make this blog as much of an instrument in on-going conversation as it is a personal exploration.  I know I contradict myself.  I'll avoid quoting Walt Whitman right now, but you get the idea.  Shit's complicated.  This entire blog is a contradiction because I am trying as hard as I can, to be honest and thorough, and honesty is by nature, contradictory.  As is the individual trying to uphold it.

Let me finish by getting something off of my chest that's been bugging me: girls/women cannot MOON, at least not alone, and have it be funny/insulting.  It is pretty much only "sexy," at least kind of, or horribly inappropriate, and I really hate this.  I grew up with boys mooning and it was the most amusing thing ever at the time.  But when I mooned, it was a no-go.  It was dangerous and I didn't understand why it was less funny.  It was simply wrong.  I once dared another little girl to moon a bunch of boys at a party, and we both got in a bit of trouble...
I've just always loved that the simple, carnal act of showing one's buttcheeks can have such a capacity for amusement or insult, but I hated (still do, really)  that I couldn't be a part of it.  I remember when Crystal and I tried to flash someone on a road trip to Arizona as an affront, but then realized, wait...this wouldn't be pejorative to him...it would be a treat.  So we relented, disappointed, but also realized something legitimately worth talking about.  To be continued...

Ahh, SoCal Amtrak mooning.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

post x: L'ecriture, l'ecriture, l'ecriture

I recently read a somewhat interesting article called "L'Ecriture Feminine" by Ann Rosalind Jones, which discusses the ways in which the language we operate within is intensely patriarchal.  This isn't necessarily at the root of feminine inequality (although it may help to perpetuate it), but it's worth observing and maybe deducing that it is not necessarily the most-suited language choice out there for all of us.  Mostly, it is not for women who have at any time felt an overwhelming sense of dissatisfaction with the language in which we operate.

All of that said, I do not see how this is remotely limited to women.

The article of course dwelled upon the construction of our very language making actual sexual equality not a default mindset, but I felt like it was overlooking the default that language places all of us under and how this has power over our interactions with other humans, with nature, and with ourselves.

It is definitely not good or at least not wordily courteous when the normative is set to the male by default, so that when a woman (person) even refers to herself, she (or he) verbally refers to herself as other and may even think of herself as other.  But don't men do this too, when they don't fit in with a precise definition of the normative that the language has provided? Our language also doesn't just do this to women, but it does it to men, as well as to all things, so that when something, someone, some concept, some abstraction, receives a word, it becomes further removed from that thing which is actually is.  So the male, as well as the female, the thing, gets defined in terms of something that is other from what it actually is.  Answer to this?  Fuck if I know.  But yeah, language does have some patriarchal patterns that might be a little better serving if neutral...better serving to both women and to men.  But who's the neutral?  Then would there be a separate neutral, or a neutral that encompasses both?  I like the latter, but the latter in our language tends to be the male term.

So naturally, this becomes a piece of work for the poet who must function within the boundaries so clearly perceived as simply false and un-encompassing of that which things truly are.  (Although so little can truly be elucidated, nor should it be.)

I'm really, really tired of talking about this already.  Topics concerning femaleness and maleness and language exhaust me like no other, and I never get to the bottom of anything, I contradict myself, I disagree with myself, I can sound hyper-feminist, and at times even chauvinistic in my own way, because words fucking fail.  So do people.  So do machines,  and so do systems, eventually.   And I am a person, using language, a system to try and explain something concerning exactly these facts.  Whoa man.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

post ix: I, i, I, i, and I

I wouldn't be surprised if our vernacular were to expand to include new forms of the word "I" and "self."  "I" alone isn't necessarily satisfying.  Sometimes it is more fitting to its descriptive need when not given the importance of capitalization.  Sometimes it may need more than capitalization to achieve its magnitude.  Sometimes it may be something that is still "I" in a way, but is not entirely just "I," or is really only a fragmented representation of "I" that it needs a new word altogether.  It may be just a branch or a leaf or an insect clinging to the tree that is "I," but at other times this thing we're calling "I" may require a bombastic head - the whole tree and the forest to allot for its meaning.

But on that note, where are these "I"s?  These "self"s?  Do we even have one at all, or do we have many that we've littered about like seeds to grow and cultivate without the mothership "I" even being aware?  Mothership "I"?  Fuck.  There I go assuming that there is some kind of a pure, base, consistent "I" whose superficialities are only sparse contingencies of its truth.  Shit.  I'm getting into truth/Truth which is a larvae's nest of impalpability, so let me abandon that for now, except where it relates to the "self" thing.  Um, which I guess is everywhere.  And nowhere.  Which may be the same thing as everywhere.

Many of us seem convinced that we are frequently experiencing some varying tragedy of the self.  But perhaps we're just created so many selves, all intangible yet suited to a specific need that we perceive to possess, that at least one of them, at some point if it remains so separate and autonomous, gets sick.  Or gets neglected and wants attention.  Or gets lost.  Or just discovers the non-fulfillment embedded in mortal human experience and cannot accept it, and has deviated so far from its own awareness of its own existence that it cannot grasp actual fact and clings only to the fact that it has created to fulfill its own separate reality.

What are these selves that we create?  These masks of identity that cease to be masks and become actual spawns of self?  I suppose some are obvious.  The hot girl on Myspace who is hyper-emotional and therefore sensitive and needs to be protected.  Preferably by a man/boy who can offer validation, but presumably only validation to this particular self - the hot girl on Myspace self.  The academic who becomes so turned on by the idea of being an academic that she abandons all idiocies and activities that could possibly hinder her apparent enlightenment and rich cultivation of mind.  Her opinions and previous thoughts have been flipped because she is now seen as an "academic".  Therefore, Tim and Eric is no longer funny, books without existential depth are no longer good, and comic books are only good for the social, moral, and artistic commentary they make about their creators.  This is one new self.  (Um, that was a shitty example though, because basically she just became a boring dick of a self.)
Or the female that perceives herself as breakable, disintegrating, getting smaller, getting forgotten, being eaten alive.  So she lets her body eat itself alive, get smaller, become breakable, and disintegrate.  She sees herself as a tiny miniscule speck of nothing in the chasm of nothingness and she becomes this tiny speck.  Except now she has bone and organ damage to the body she had perceived and identified as being so innately damaged.

These created selves seek only the validation and nourishment that applies to its own aspects, not the the needs of its original source.  If there was an original source.  Are we born as real selves, or is even the "mothership" self I assumed exists earlier, created?  Although all cells in the physical world come from pre-existing cells, what if in the metaphysical yet highly real realm, these selves come from nothing and then breed.  They are mothered by the original that created itself from nothing and spread? Or they are mothered by the original that actually came from within us?

The actual self arises not in the materialization of the body, but in the consciousness of existing.  So then what would being born have to do with it at all?  The coming into consciousness is much more significant.

"Selfishness" at least in my experience, has been losing its connotation as a negative word, and is breaching neutral ground.  It is becoming more and more accepted to admit your own selfishness, and at times, it is even praised because it is assuming that you possess some kind of care and respect you can then share with others.

But why this shift?  We are a society of abstracts becoming material, and then dwelling upon and within that material.  Could all of our attention now to "self": self help, self love, self protection, self care, self etc etc etc be an attempt to create material out of abstract?  To try and solidify these slippery things we assume to exist that we call selves??  Other aspects of contemporary society have been able to function in this way.  "Self"hood has always been a dilemma, and maybe now we are trying to "fix" it in some way by giving it the same attentions we have given other slippery concepts that have gone from abstract to physical and even common.  Maybe our focus on the existence of our "self" is just a cry for these "self"s that allegedly exist to solidify.  To exist wholly and not as an enigma, or maybe even as a lie.  Ew, negative ending.