And if a nice White lady writer from Nashville can be called dangerous…

The way Ann Patchett wrote about Lucy: I, and many others, loved it.

Some people very much didn’t like it. In an essay called “The Love Between Two Women Is Not Normal” from This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, Patchett writes about the backlash she received when Truth and Beauty was assigned to incoming freshmen. A protest was planned.

My friends from New York offered to go with me to South Carolina, expecting a gladiatorial match I would surely win. My friends from home read drafts of my speech and howled over the ever-growing stack of newspaper clippings. My friend from Mississippi told me not to go. “Cancel,” she said. “Cancel, cancel, cancel.” Mississippians tend not to be cavalier about the dangers of bigotry in the Deep South.

And why the fuss? It doesn’t surprise me:

“The love between the two women is not normal.” The reporter and the seventeen-year-old had finally come out and said the thing that no one else had had the nerve to mention: Lucy and I must have been having sex with each other. That was the only explanation for our loyalty, love, and devotion. Sex was the payoff for a difficult relationship, and without the sex the whole thing made no sense.

She went, she gave her speech with a bodyguard there, and she notes there wasn’t much protest. She admits to spending a huge amount of time on her speech, hoping it would persuade young hearts and minds to avoid censorship, but ultimately doesn’t think she changed many minds, which is indeed a topic for another day.

In my better moments, I tell myself what happened was a noble battle between freedom and oppression, but I knot it is equally possible that nothing so lofty occurred. Some people find sex and suffering and deep friendship between women unpalatable subjects, and seeing these subjects bearing down on their children, they no doubt felt they had to try and stop it. They didn’t succeed, but I seriously doubt that anyone was harmed by completing the assignment. If I am the worst thing the students of Clemson have to fear, then their lives will be very beautiful indeed.

 

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Oh Ann Patchett can soothe the soul…

I mentioned in the last post how vital and beautiful Ann Patchett’s writing about female friendship is. It’s also unique, as Erin Wunker pointed out. When Ann met Lucy:

When I turned around the say hello, she shot through the door with a howl. In a second she was in my arms, leaping up onto me, her arms locked around my neck, her legs wrapped around my waist, ninety-five pounds that felt no more than thirty. She was crying into my hair. She squeezed her legs tighter. It was not a greeting so much as it was a claim: she was staking out this spot on my chest as her own and I was to hold her for as long as she wanted to stay….

I do not remember our love unfolding, that we got to know one another and in time became friends. I only remember that she came through the door and it was there, huge and permanent and first. I felt I had been chosen by Lucy and I was thrilled. I was twenty-one years old and very strong. She had a habit of pitching herself into my arms like a softball without any notice. She liked to be carried.

I’ve read Truth and Beauty: A Friendship at least six times. That bolded line has always, and will always stick with me. It is one of the best books I have ever read about beauty, and about  love. It is a memoir about two women best friends.

I did Lucy and myself a great disservice our second year at Iowa and left the house on Governor Street to move in with my boyfriend, who lived in a small cottage behind a larger house a mile away. This act of packing up an leaving home set in motion a much larger mistake that would take years to correct. At the time I thought this was my big chance for love, that I was doing something very romantic and important, but looking back on it now, it all seems part of a very simple equation: I left the house where I lived with someone who loved me to go to the house of someone who did not love me at all. Wasn’t it more important to live with a man, a man who was certain to wake up one day and be happy because I was there with all my good intentions sleeping beside him? Wasn’t that more valuable than staying with a friend who made me laugh, who made me think about everything, but was, in the end, just a girl?

Ann Patchett has this language that Erin Wunker seeks, but is one of the few.

 

Finding a book at the right time…

A feminist book which addresses mothering, among other things. I just read and loved Notes From a Feminist Killjoy by Erin Wunker. She`s a feminist academic, blogger, activist and mother. She also, like me, loves Sara Ahmed.

She has a section of friendship that I love:

I hate most of the words used to describe friendship among women.

What is it about female friendship that inspires such insipid descriptors? I struggle to find a collective noun that fits my friends without itching in it’s not-quite-right fit. My girls (too infantilizing). My crew (I don’t row, so…). My gal pals (sounds like a condition. My tribe (too new age-appropriative). My bitches (just no). ….

I’ve been looking for the language to describe friendship among women to myself, but I haven’t found it yet.

Why is that?

What do we resist when we resist finding or forging this language? What do we lose when we don’t have the language to name the communities of care that hold our heads above water and bring us back to ourselves?

I’m thinking so much about communities of care lately, partly because of my new job. Now I’m re-reading Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett, which describes a female friendship in the best way, in the most unique and beautiful way. Ann Patchett found the language that so few have. I still have to digest this book, and will have more to say later…

The First Day…..

I only cried a tiny bit. Little MB is having the time of his life with his new friends, two humans, two cats and a dog. I rerouted my brain from constant interruptions to focused, consistent working ability fairly quickly. My baby brain still has weird lurches to catch up to the rest of the world every once in awhile, but so far, so good. 2017, you’re alright.

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The truism that is my life right now…

How can time go by so fast? Time didn’t move so quickly before I had a child. In fact, it was often excruciatingly slow. I was underemployed, or unemployed, and time just stretched out in front of me – I wasted so much of it, just waiting for things to happen to me.

Also, my pregnancy was such a slog and seemed interminable. Forty weeks and two days stretched out like a nine-year limbo, full of seasickness, insomnia and boredom.

But now. These 11 months have gone by in a heartbeat. I’ll miss every second of it, even the tedium.

How fast we went from this:

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To this:

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“A birth story is a bit like… a war story”

“A birth story is a bit like the female version of a war story – an endlessly repeatable, endlessly compelling ritual form. We know its contours, its rhythms, its stakes. We know that our hero makes it out alive – they’re here to testify to what they’ve seen. All that may feel familiar. But what opportunities for unexpected newness would get missed if we avoided the familiar, the conventional, the universal?”

Molly Fischer, in her review of The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson.

Thinking on this. Working on this.