Recently, this story seriously put a bitchy bee in my metaphysical britches.
Long story short, a beloved Pennsylvania English teacher of twenty-five years may now lose her job because she...
...writes erotic novels in her spare time.
Apparently, the parents are concerned.
To me, this is as ridiculous as judging someone for secretly liking sex or working at Starbucks, and it's entirely reprehensible. If this woman is doing a satisfactory job teaching the students, if the parents and teachers and administrators are happy with her performance, why on earth should it matter what she does in her spare time?
And I'll go you one better. If you really want your children to learn how to write, anyone who's gone to the trouble to write, edit, polish, and publish over sixteen books knows a hell of a lot more than your average college English major.
If you ask me, these kids are lucky.
Okay, it would be one thing if this woman was writhing all over the table at school while reading excerpts of her work. It would be one thing if she hovered over a laptop on her desk, sweating and drinking red wine as she wrote. It would be one thing if she made them diagram the sentence Roland spread her creamy thighs as she admired his quivering tumescence. It would be one if there was a question about her behavior or abilities.
But it isn't. Everything is fine. Except that she's a romance writer.
So what? Her students would probably have a wider vocabulary, for one thing, because if there's one thing a writer of erotica knows, it's how to describe one normal thing in fifty different colorful ways.
How do I know that?
My book, the one that's being published, is a ROMANCE. It contains SEX.
So what about the next time I go to teach an art class or help your child up the ladder at the playground? Are you going to chase me with pitchforks because the people in my books enjoy sex and I know enough to write about it in a way that earned a romance editor's interest and cash? Are you going to (PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE) read my books one day and then see me differently?
I hope not. I hope that you will continue to see me as me, as a woman and mother and friend.
I hope that you will understand that whether or not we talk about such things in public-- and I generally don't, because I'm a good Southern girl-- the vast majority of us have sex, and, hopefully, enjoy it. I mean, most of my readers have KIDS, and you know where they come from.
I still remember the morning I told my parents that I was pregnant with our first child, and my dad's face went from YAY! GRANDKIDS! to WAIT, I KNOW HOW THIS HAPPENS, AND THAT'S MY LITTLE GIRL, BUSTER.
And reading about such things is a big part of female America, whether we do it in private or rip off the covers or-- my favorite trick-- read it on the Nook and pretend you're nodding sagely over Ayn Rand.
I grew up in a very conservative house, and I still remember that frozen moment in the middle school library when I got to the part of Jean Auel's Valley of Horses where Jondular "spreads" Ayla's "petals," and I looked around me in wonder, thinking, DEAR GOD, WHAT IF THE LIBRARIANS KNOW WHAT I'M READING? THEY'RE GOING TO ARREST ME!
And then I went on reading and thought, "Oh. People do that? WHY WASN'T I TOLD?"
Looking back, it was actually healthy for me. It wasn't something I could talk about, but it was something I needed to know.
I believe everyone is entitled to their opinions. And I understand that whether it's because of religion, raising, or reason, many people are opposed to erotic or racy literature. But we live in a country of freedom, and I firmly believe that if you're doing a good job, then it doesn't matter one damn bit what you do in your free time, whether it involves latex clothing or Boggle or both.
And if a woman wants to read or write about it in a way that's separate from her life as a PTA president or a kindergarten teacher or a doting grandmother or a church secretary, then that's her own damn business.
On a related note, my book release has been moved up to April 2012, so you can all read it and quietly judge me then. =)
I'm going to do something very brave here. Show you something I don't want anyone to see.
It's my gut.
Well, it was.
I'm going to show you why I'm doing The 4-Hour Body diet. See, we were at a playground for a playdate, and my friend Jenny used her amazing camera to take a picture of me playing on a climbing wall thing. I loved about 75% of the picture.
The smile, the hat, the shoes. But then I saw my gut and got all queasy.
Surely it doesn't look like that?
That's not how I picture myself.
But there it is.
I'm pretty sure that was the day that Dr. Krog brought home The 4-Hour Body by Timothy Ferriss. We started reading it, and I was desperate enough to be open to the hardest, cruelest diet I'd ever encountered.
It works like this:
Eat 3-4 meals per day. Eat only meat/eggs, green vegetables, and beans/nuts.
No dairy. No sugar. No grains. No shrimp. No chocolate. No honey.
No alcohol except dry red wine.
Once a week you can eat whatever you want on Binge Day.
Also, buy a kettlebell and swing it 50 times, 3 times a week.
Also, record your morning and evening weight.
DOES THAT NOT SOUND LIKE MY OWN, PERSONAL VERSION OF HELL?
But I started it. On the night of March 26, I weighed 142 pounds.
For perspective, I was about 132 for all of high school, 135 for married life, went up to 177 with each kid, back down to a comfortable, eat-whatever-I-want 145 for post-baby life. I'm 33, and I'm 5'6". My BMI is totally normal, but I've never been proud of my body. I despise exercise of the gym/running/aerobics kind. And I freaking love cupcakes or anything that involves cakiness and frosting.
And, thus far, I have lost 8 pounds. In a month.
I started the 4-Hour Body that night and have only cheated one time in a month, and that was to have a drink at a big, extended family dinner. And, as Tim Ferriss tells you to do, I excused myself to the restroom before and after that amaretto sour for 60 air squats and 30 presses in my fancy dress.
And not to get all reduxy on you, but whenever I see this pic from yesterday's circus blog, I can see such an amazing difference in my body that I have to smile. My arms have tone and definition. My stomach is slimmer. My legs are slimmer. There's a dip under my ribcage. And I feel great.
I'm sleeping better. My skin is better. My attitude is better. And although sometimes I crave carbs with the passion of a thousand fiery stars, I am able to reject them. And then I buy myself an almond croissant on Friday night in preparation for Saturday morning, and it is the most delicious almond croissant that has ever existed.
If you, like me, have spent your entire life with a mental image that doesn't match your actual pictures, hoping that one day you'll find a secret bullet and look like you want to look, you might want to check out The 4-Hour Body. I'm now seeing it as less of a diet than an overall life plan. I'm starting to believe that my lifelong addiction, sugar, is a poison.
I have this silly life goal to get below 130 pounds. And it looks like that might actually happen, right in time for bathing suit season.
Disclaimer: For the record, I'm not writing this blog post in a "Please, everyone hop into the comments to tell me I look better or was just fine the way I was" sort of way, although I know Urfa will, because she is the sweetest person I've ever met. It was important to me that I show you that picture I hate so much, that triggered such self-loathing in me. If reading this book can make you feel as great about yourself-- and as healthy-- as I feel right now, it'll be worth it. This blog has seen me go vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, sugar-free. You name it.
When I look back at a day like today, I remember the tiny moments. The ones that aren't so obvious.
I mean, it wasn't the stiff, everybody-say-cheese family photo that I'll remember.
It's this one.
And it's not the fancy Easter dress I'll remember. It's how excited she was about those ridiculous ears.
And the boy. It was fun watching him discover his first real Easter basket. But it was more fun watching him eat chocolate chip ice cream, a very rare treat.
Because yes, we are horrible, Draconian people who 100% believe that sugar turns our children into raging monsters.
But man, that kid likes ice cream.
And Dr. Krog?
This picture captures my favorite vignette of him.
Seriously, guys. He's an awesome father, and his biceps are the size of grapefruits.
Even my grandmother noticed it.
We're celebrating her 60th wedding anniversary next month, and one of my favorite moments of the day was spent sitting under the umbrella on the back porch, listening to her tell the story of taking the train out to California to marry my grandfather before he got shipped off to Japan with the Service.
And although we ate lots and lots of wonderful things today and I burned the crap out of my mouth on my own favorite taco dip at an awesome Easter Brunch of which we have no pictures, I still can't stop thinking about what a fun time I had last night with the Biscuit at her first Fancy Grown-Up Meal.
She colored a picture for every person at the table. She was so polite and quiet and charming. I've never been more proud.
Except when she showed her grandfather how well she could hit a T-ball.
I was pretty proud then, too.
Happy Easter, y'all. I hope your day was as wonderful as mine.
Thanks to the horrors of AT&T and a busted wireless adapter, the only way I can connect to the internet is by plugging my laptop into the wall. And the only room that has that exact wall plug is my studio. Ergo, if I want to do my job, bug my friends, or browse Etsy for lobster shirts, I'm stuck in my studio.
And it's a mess.
It always is.
Not only because it's the place where STUFF gravitates, but also because despite my dreams of an all-white room with nothing but a couch and a desk, I somehow end up with things that are absolutely essential exactly where they are, which is in the middle of my bidness.
It makes me mad, too.
I'm smart. I should be able to keep one stinking room clean, especially since it's the only room the children aren't allowed to enter. Ever.
But you know that old aphorism about "A cluttered desk denotes a cluttered mind?"
Yeah, that's so me.
I'm starting to think it's an integral part of my creative process. I don't think in straight lines. I puzzle and play. I write down forgotten bits of dreams and force creative trances in the bathtub and bolt upright at 3am, screeching I FINALLY FIGURED IT OUT. Like my studio, my mind is not a tidy place, but I generally find what I need.
I'm a sucky housekeeper. I'll just say it here. I don't get that high other people get from having everything just so, perfectly matching linens, or magazines attractively fanned on a table. I don't own a single decorative wreath. In my mind, I always want clean, empty spaces. But in my heart of hearts, in the part of my life where I actually get stuff done, I'm a total mess. And for me, it works.
I'm not saying we're going to be on Hoarders, and we've never had mice, and, honestly, people come over all the time and don't run away screaming. I just look at my sink and think, "Well, I could do the dishes. OR I COULD WRITE."
And then I go into a room where I can't see the dishes, and I write.
I wish I was tidy. I go to people's houses and am so jealous of their pretty tablecloths, their grown-up furniture, that look that says, "Everything here was chosen for a reason besides well, if the kids ruin it, we can just throw it out later."
I like to think that one day, when the kids are off at college and I force Dr. Krog to buy me a regrettably small dog in a regrettably ugly sweater, I'll have the spotless, all-white, sun-lit office I've always dreamed of, preferably somewhere by an ocean.
And right next, door, I'll have the messiest goddamn studio you've ever seen.
I'd just like to state this publicly. Please bear with me.
If you're in the mood for something not less psychotic, but just psychotic in a different way, check out the short story I posted earlier today.
AT&T IS A HORRIBLE EXCUSE FOR A COMPANY.
AT&T HAS BAD CUSTOMER SERVICE.
AFTER PATRONIZING AND SMACK-TALKING ME, THE CSR REFUSED TO GIVE ME HER NAME, SO I HUNG UP ON HER.
AT&T MAKES ME WANT TO CHEW OFF MY OWN LEG.
AT&T THINKS I NEED TO PAY THEM FOR A WIRELESS ROUTER BECAUSE THE ONE THEY GAVE ME DIED. BASICALLY, AFTER A WEEK WITH NO INTERNET, THEY WANT ME TO PAY THEM MORE MONEY FOR THE SHITTY SERVICE I ALREADY HAD
I SAID NO.
I JUST SIGNED UP WITH A DIFFERENT COMPANY. AT&T, YOU ARE WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE WORLD.
We were given the following 10 words and 30 minutes to create a story in 10 sentences or less.
1. What 2. Trees 3. Bathing 4. Style 5. Gatsby 6. Shimmering 7. Seductive 8. Axe 9. Photo 10. Fire
Here's mine. Gatsby was all she had left, after the fire. He reclined on the inn's dark wood floor in an elegant heap, silently judging her with shimmering, yellow eyes. No matter what she did, how many doors she closed in the suite, the cat was there beside her, posing against bookshelf or sunbeam like a black-and-white photo from Vanity Fair. Bathing himself with one elegant paw, running it over and over his black fur in the style of a panther hidden in the jungle trees, waiting to strike from the darkness. Reminding her of the pretentious impotence of the life she'd left behind. She had thought herself so seductive and manipulative, winning the heart of a rich man's son. And she had thought herself so clever and strong, winning her freedom and fortune with one twist of a stove knob and the flick of a match. If not for her dead husband's cat, the damnable, accusing, purebred, thinks-his-shit-don't-stink cat, she could finally be happy. That's what she told herself as she picked up the axe again. That's what she told herself as she hacked and hacked and hacked at the empty space on the scarred wooden floor, just like yesterday, just like the day before, trying to kill something that was already gone yet would never leave her.
They asked me to do face painting for the neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt.
I painted two dogs, three cats, two disco divas, five butterflies, one flower fairy, four skulls, two zombies, a Frankenstein, and a Dracula.
Nothing says Easter like the undead, am I right?
But I digress.
We've got some nice kids around here, though. Good, zombie-loving Americans.
The internet is still spotty. I walk around the house holding my laptop out like a metal detector, hoping for a decent signal.
But when an internet door slams, a window of actual progress sometimes opens. I started writing a book last Monday-- a creepy YA. I finished it this morning.
So I'm off to revise and write and edit and marinate and sign book contracts and eat nothing but meat and beans and green things and look for more children to turn into abominations with my paintbrush.
Sometimes, I imagine what would happen if High School Me:
Met Now Me:
High School Me: Excuse me, ma'am.
Now Me: Dude, did you just "Ma'am" me?
HSM: Um, yeah. Sorry. It's just that you were staring at me.
NM: Um, yeah. Sorry. It's the eyebrows. You know there should be two, right?
HSM: I pluck every day!
NM: It's not working. Go find a place that does eyebrow threading. Seriously, it will change your life.
HSM: I don't want to look like I try too hard.
NM: Don't worry. You don't, not to other people. But really, you try *way* too hard, and you have no idea what you're doing. And you think everyone is staring at you all the time, but they're not. And if they are, it's for a different reason than because you're as awesome as your mom says you are. Also, let's buy our jeans and shoes in the women's department next time, okay?
HSM: I love these jeans. They're Calvin Klein.
NM: Honey, no. You look like a baggy schlub. It's okay to buy clothes that actually fit. It's okay to look nice.
HSM: I LOOK NICE!
NM: Everything's baggy. Your shoes remind me of Frankenstein. And the blue eyeshadow is just sad.
HSM: You seem really vain and judgmental.
NM: Hi, pot. I'm the kettle. And I know that one day, when you find your style and get to a point where you actually like your body, you'll thank me. I know exactly how you feel. I know that you scare people off by seeming standoffish when you're actually just shy and have no idea how to make friends, make small talk, or ask questions. I know that you want to look pretty and feel good about yourself but are terrified of trying too hard, or looking like you try too hard, or trying too hard and failing. I know that you don't wear skirts or dresses because of that time you flashed everyone when that guy stole your lunchbox.
HSM: OH MY GOD, ARE YOU THE METATRON?
NM: Close enough. I'm you in 16 years. And I want you to know that everything you worry about now... none of it matters. Everything that embarrasses you now will be forgotten. Everything that scares you now? You'll conquer it. Right now, you feel deeply and passionately, but you have no focus and no ambition and are content to make good grades and think of yourself as an artist. One day, you'll figure out what you want to do, and you'll make it happen.
HSM: That sounds awesome.
NM: Well, a lot of sincerely horrible shit is going to happen before then. Lots of it will happen next year, actually. But the good news is that you'll survive it and come out even stronger and more awesome on the other side.
HSM: I have so many questions. What will I do with my life? Will I get married? Will I be a famous artist? Will I have kids? WILL I EVER GET A PONY?
NM: That'll be our little secret.
HSM: No fair.
NM: If there's one thing you already know, it's that life isn't fair. But I will give you one little hint.
NM: Buy stock in Apple. And seriously, look into the eyebrow thing. It's creeping me out. They're like two caterpillars fencing.
The kind where you clean out the clutter. Unclog the mental drains. Let some air in.
I'm making space.
When I started the publishing journey, I told myself that when I sold a book, I would buy myself some wall-to-wall bookshelves. And they were built last week. 24 beautiful shelves. I can't put books on them until Wednesday, when the gajillion coats of paint are finally dry. But I expect that finally having a home for the stacks and stacks of books hovering on every child-free horizontal surface will be like pulling the clog out of a drain, letting everything else find a home or a garbage bag.
The old bookshelf is now upstairs in my closet, holding movies and hats. We're donating a big bag of movies, things we haven't watched in years. Our collection is hilarious. Who would admit to owning Dodgeball or I Was a Teenage Caveman or three copies of Total Recall?
Okay. Me, apparently.
Saying goodbye to 50 VHS cassettes hurts a little, though. I like VHS. You can't scratch or dent a cassette. They're harder to lose, harder to break. I still have the VHS cassette of The Princess Bride that I took on the tour bus for my 8th grade trip to Savannah, back when a movie took 4 years to come out on tape and cost $40. My wobbly, awkward, 13-year-old handwriting is still on it, with the phone number of the house where I grew up. And it's still watchable. I doubt I'll have a DVD in 22 years that will still be watchable.
It's hard to let go. My instinct is to hold on to things. Pretty things, memories, reminders. But our world is one in which almost anything can be found instantly online, including The Princess Bride. I used to spend 6 hours in front of MTV waiting for my favorite video. Now I can watch Thriller or Jeremy faster than I can actually type this sentence.
I worry that one day we'll live in a world that looks like an Ikea catalog, where we keep digital images of our favorite objects on cloud servers. Where we don't even have wobbly, awkward, 13-year-old handwriting to remind us of how scared we were to get on that tour bus where nobody really liked us, and yet we did it anyway. I'm all for evolving, but I always want to be able to touch things and remember.
So I'll pick and choose from what can go and what can stay. Total Recall can go.
The Princess Bride will always have a place on my shelf.
I woke up with one objective this morning: Buy tickets to see Mumford & Sons at the Fabulous Fox Theatre on June 12.
At 9:30, I was at my computer with my credit card, waiting. At 9:59, I was on the ticket page, hitting refresh. The first time the ticket option showed up, I selected (2) at any price and waited.
And waited. And waited. And waited.
I did not move from the page. I did not hit refresh. I just stared, hungrily, at the screen.
The next page that came up, 10 minutes later, informed me that no tickets were available.
So I tried a few more times. Still nothing.
So I called Ticketmaster. Nothing.
Even though I was in the system when tickets went on sale at 10am, I was not able to purchase tickets. But you know who did? The asshats who are now selling the $37.50 tickets for $100 a pop on "ticket sharing" websites.
So I did what any red-blooded American in front of their laptop would do: I commented on their Facebook page.
And you know what? I'm not alone.
Dozens of Atlanta fans posted that despite being on Ticketmaster at 10am, they were unable to purchase tickets, whereas somehow the ticket brokers had no problem snapping up hundreds and selling out the show.
Look. I'm 33. I'm a writer and a wife and a mother of two. I still use a flip phone. I have to find a babysitter. And I've only seen one concert since 1999. Seeing this show meant a lot to me. I'm not some college kid who gets to see two shows every weekend.
And it looks like this show, the one I've been waiting on, the one that was penned onto my calendar as ZOMG BUY MUMFORD TIX 10AM OR DIE!-- it looks like I won't be able to see it.
So I'm angry and sad. Not at the band themselves. I know they don't handle tour schedules or Ticketmaster. And I certainly know they're not hovering over their Facebook page, waiting to hand out front row tickets to the hundreds of disappointed fans who are actual people and not, in fact, robots.
No, I'm mad at the system.
I'm mad that music has become so impersonal that a serious fan, someone who ACTUALLY PAID FOR THE CD rather than downloading it illegally, can't even pay their hard-earned cash to go see the band if they're waiting the second tickets go on sale.
Screw you, system. I can't see Mumford and Sons perform Sigh No More live, so I will indeed keep sighing.
Every so often, I have these reality checks when I suddenly remember that I'm alive, that time is passing, that other people exist and aren't just Vonnegutian robots programmed to make my life more interesting. I stop being and get meta, and it usually blows my mind for a little while. I hate the mortality salience, but I love and remember the moments.
The first one I remember having was when I was around 10, and I had just gotten permission to go down the big hill in my neighborhood. These days, it looks like a gentle slope, but back then, it was like Lloyd Dobbler on the K-12 in Better Off Dead. The ride down was exhilarating and amazing, and I felt like I was flying and one with all the world. And the walk back up, pushing my hand-me-down lead bike, felt like I was a thousand miles from home and would never be safe again. I think it was the first time I understood that I was alone in the world.
I had one in France when I was about 17. I wasn't having as great a trip as I should have been. I spent so much of my time in my head then, worrying. Worrying whether the other students liked me, if I was looking and acting the right way. And then, one night, we were by this amazing fountain, and it was all lit up, and all the other kids were dying of boredom, and all I could think about was that someone had cared enough to carve it from solid rock, and hundreds of years later, I was feeling the spray on my face, connecting me to the artist and the models and the world.
I thought about ordering a gelato, but I didn't, because I always felt too fat. Now, I wish I had had the gelato.
I had another one in France, a few weeks later after a half-hearted suicide attempt. I was drunk for the first time in my life with my host student and a group of boys, out in a field on the wild Spanish-French frontier. I'd never seen so many stars or felt so wild or been at a bonfire or cared less about what people thought of me. It was exhiliarating. And for one second, I thought about how dangerous it was, how anyone could rape or kill me in the middle of nowhere. And then I realized that I was having the best time of my life, so instead, I started singing along with their Led Zeppelin and Nirvana cassettes, and they thought I was cool because I could explain the lyrics in French.
After that, I spent a lot less time trying to be cool. Maybe because for a few minutes, I was, without even trying. I just stopped caring. And life was a lot more fun after that.
I had one in 11th grade French class. I had one at the bowling alley. I had one in Milan, on top of the Duomo. I had one in Greece. I sometimes have them in front of the bathroom mirror and have to poke Dr. Krog in the face to make sure he exists.
"Yep, I'm real," he says. He gets them, too.
I could go on. But I think you get the idea. I love and hate reality checks, because they remind me of how unbelievably special life is. But they also help me fix points in time and remember moments with startling clarity.
Hypothetical Interviewer:Out of 140 reviewers, only 19% gave Sucker Punch a positive review. Are you one of those people?
me: TOTALLY. I stand tall with those 26.6 people... or, I guess sit or crouch by the .6 person. I loved it.
Hypothetical Interviewer:What would be in your ideal movie?
me: That's like asking a four-year-old "What kind of food do you want at your birthday party?" The answer would be a whole bunch of fun fluff mixed in with reality, which would go together like pizza, bananas, hot dogs, curry, chili cheese fries, and Ding Dongs and kinda make you want to yark.
My ideal movie would contain zeppelins, zombies, steampunk elements, dance scenes, seriously kick-ass mash-up music that thumps your rib cage, strong and beautiful women, revenge, samurai sword fights, fire-breathing dragons, orcs, robots, cowboys, a mind-f*ck, and a dark and unusual, artistic world.
AND IT'S ALL IN SUCKER PUNCH.
The only things I like that weren't in there were: horses, a magnificent bastard love interest, a giant elephant, sparklepires, Robert Duvall, and the guy who played Scutt Farkus in The Christmas Story and later Annoyed Russian in the second Resident Evil movie.
So it's pretty close to perfect.
Hypothetical Interviewer: So why do you think so many people didn't like it, or worse, didn't even see it?
me: There were too many variables for your average moviegoer. It was like Kill Bill having Percocet and pizza dreams, and Kill Bill was too much, for most people. I mean, Watchmen and 300, both by the same director, went over pretty well. But Sucker Punch adds in a layer of imagination that makes *anything* possible, and most people don't like quite so many variables. And, on the surface, viewers might object to the 'young women as prostitutes' trope, although I think it made perfect sense, from a psychological point of view.
Hypothetical Interviewer:What was your favorite scene?
me: I liked the first half of the movie better than the second half, which is the same way I felt about similarly stylistic films like Moulin Rouge, Watchmen, Sin City, and 300. The later music, especially, didn't have the power of the first few songs, which was a letdown.
But as far as actual scenes go, the clockwork zombies and zeppelin scene in the previews was lots of fun.
Hypothetical Interviewer:Do you think the people actually taking the time to read this ridiculous interview would like the movie?
me: If they've read this far, yes. If they take themselves-- or film-- too seriously, then no. It's not a traditionally "good" movie.