“I tell him these stories about my experience as a woman going about the world and he can never BELIEVE it — this idea that people will just, as I put it, traverse the chasm of individual personhood and feel the need/perogative to COMMENT on you and how you are going about your life —and I was resigned to the fact that he would never really witness it. How could he be with me at the same time I was in the world alone with myself? How can someone you love, someone who is part of your subjectivity, ever really experience you as other people do?”—
I love this story. Also, seriously fuck those dude bikeswarmers. I always think of them — especially the ones who ride their expensive bikes in full lycra in Prospect Park on the weekends and are palpably annoyed by everyone who’s not going full Tour de France-speed — as “the lawyers.” (I have zero evidence that any of them are lawyers, but that’s how I think of them.)
When I was a kid my dad’s then-girlfriend took me to a psychic. The woman examined my hand for a moment before looking up to say, “You better watch her when she gets older,” and then, to me, “You better watch out for yourself.” There was concern in her voice.
“Sometimes I believe that love dies but hope springs eternal. Sometimes I believe that hope dies but love springs eternal. Sometimes I believe that sex plus guilt equals love, and sometimes I believe that sex plus guilt equals good sex. Sometimes I believe that love is as natural as the tides, and sometimes I believe that love is an act of will. Sometimes I believe that some people are better at love than others, and sometimes I believe that everyone is faking it. Sometimes I believe that love is essential, and sometimes I believe that the only reason love is essential is that otherwise you spend all your time looking for it.”—
All Nora Ephron’s books are great — dirty and mean and gossipy and wild and epigrammatic and hilarious — especially her early ones. If you only know her as a director and screenwriter of rom-coms and have never read Crazy Salad or Scribble Scribble or Heartburn, now is a good time to read them.
“A life like mine annoys most people; they go to their jobs every day, attend to things, give orders, pummel typewriters, and get two or three weeks off every year, and it vexes them to see someone else not bothering to do these things and yet getting away with it, not starving, being lucky as they call it.”—
I just cut this out of a book review (to be clear: a book review I am trying to write!) because … because. but, seriously:
“I would prefer to spend the rest of my life without reading another male-written female narrator lovingly describe her own full-yet-pert breasts – their bounce and sway as she walks, the way her lovers have described and caressed them. Ditto periods. Newsflash, novel-dudes: having your womanly narrator bleed all over everything every few pages might seem like a handy way to convince your reader you’ve really thought about what living in a female body might be like, but consider that your protagonist, unless she’s 11, might be pretty used to being female and might even take it for granted, as your readers do, rather than notice it so much that she brings it to our attention all the time. I have never read a novel where a male narrator constantly describes the jounce and bustle of his delicate testes wriggling around in their sack and interrupts the action all the time with little updates on how his balls are affected by variations in temperature and mood. The period-and-breasts thing is exactly the same.”
I have spent over half my life serving people, starting as a dishwasher when I was fifteen. In the past fifteen years I’ve been a busser, a hostess, a waitress, a cocktail server, a deli worker, a prep cook, and now a cheese clerk. Rule number one of the service industry is the same thing they tell nurses in nursing school: don’t talk about yourself to the patient. In other words, people are coming to you to ask your expert opinion about cheese or their blood pressure or whatever—they’re not coming to you to get to know you as a three-dimensional human being. They don’t care who you are.
Until I worked with a certain woman at a busy Italian restaurant in my early twenties, I’d always taken it for granted that everyone knew this rule. She was my own age but had never worked in a restaurant before. She’d just graduated from college with a degree in English and dance.
One night after work, she and I went out for a drink to commiserate. “I’m running around pouring people water,” she said, “and clearing their plates and everything, and it’s like—they don’t know anything about me. They don’t know I’m really a dancer.”
I stared at her for a minute and took another sip of beer. “You don’t want them to know that,” I said.
“But they look at me and think I’m just a hostess. That that’s all I am.”
“Honey,” I said, feeling for the first time like a veteran of the service industry, “that knowledge is what’s yours to keep. That’s your treasure. Keeping that private is the only way you’re going to keep from going crazy.”
“The fasting body is a body made of telephone wires; messages spark and are extinguished. The lusting body is something totally different, overwhelmed by the physical realness of signals, their pulpy, fleshy undeniability. Thinspo girls are never #sexy. Most of the time they are #lovely, a word that elides those voluptuous esses and exes in favor of a flickering, liquid ell.”—
Another scene from Namaste, the Nicole Holofcener movie that only exists in my mind
While I was manning the sign-in desk at the yoga studio this morning two women were sitting on the couch in the lobby chatting and I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation. They had either just taken a yoga class or were just about to.
One of the women was talking about Twitter. “I don’t understand why anyone would want to use it. It’s just narcissism, right? I think about myself too much already. I don’t want to be encouraged to think about myself. Can you tell me why anyone does it?”
"Our whole society has ADD," said the other woman. "We can’t pay attention to anything, we’re addicted to constant stimulation."
I was so irritated! I wanted to step out from behind the desk and start lecturing these women about how Twitter, for all its faults, has amazing potential as a medium and represents a formal challenge to writers that’s just as valid as the formal constraints of …. um … a sestina (or something) and moreover it’s not at ALL about narcissism, I mean it can be, it is explicitly designed to exploit our narcissistic impulses, but MUCH MORESO it feeds into the exact opposite of narcissism by provoking genuine curiosity about other people by providing intimate glimpses into their subjectivities. Even when people think they are constructing themselves they are actually revealing themselves so purely, as humans and as WRITERS, by recording their passing thoughts and insights and observations and jokes in little 140 character dispatches.
I had three minutes before I had to go teach class. I logged into Twitter and as I typed in my password I tried to figure out how to compress everything I wanted to say to these women into a tweet. I also wanted to say something like BOY NO ONE IS NEARLY AS SANCTIMONIOUS AS YOGA PEOPLE but then at the last minute I decided against it and closed the browser tab.
I didn’t think about the women at all during my class but then the subway on the way home they popped back into my head. Why had I been so angry at them? I had already sort of forgotten. It was irritating, I guess, that they were repeating received wisdom about something they didn’t have firsthand experience of, but on the other hand, we can’t all have firsthand experience of everything. But we have a responsibility to ourselves to check the sources of our information. We also have a responsibility to ourselves to make sure our sources of information are as varied as possible, that we’re regularly checking in with the dissenting voices of people who are different from us, who disagree with us, because we can learn more from those people than we can from people we like and feel simpatico with. We have to be willing to listen. (This is a place where I fall short.)
But I was also irritated — and this wasn’t the women’s fault in any way, of course — for reasons that reminded me of the part in One More For The People when Martha Grover describes how, when you’re serving people, you can’t expect them to treat you like a real person, or even want them to see that you are one — you keep that for yourself, and focus on the role the person you’re serving is expecting you to play. But I egotistically didn’t want to be receptionist-in-spandex at that moment, I wanted to be Emily Gould. I want to be Emily Gould all the time, but it’s a luxury I definitely cannot afford.
“There’s something gross about these people openly admitting that, while they could just fund the film with their own money, they’ll happily take yours and consider that to constitute an “intimate relationship.”—
“Thus a funny person, alive to the wisdom of building [his] brand, calcifies into a humorist, or a clever person into a witticist. It can be very amusing, Dickensian, when a fictional avatar has a narrow, caricatured personality: the girl who says, exclusively, shit girls say, or the tween hobo or out-of-touch masculine blowhard who is always true to type. It’s a lot less funny when a real person, supposedly the many-sided hero of his own life, decides to say only one sort of thing, and say it all the time.”—
how should a person be (on twitter)? I think we’re all still figuring it out. Lately I have begun to suspect that in order to be heard — really heard, permanently heard, MEGA-heard — a person might, paradoxically, need to micro-stfu.
“FA: Well, I went to my phonebook in my house and I looked up “Cookie Mueller” in Manhattan. Her phone number was in the book. I grew up on Long Island. I don’t know why we had a Manhattan phone book. We just did. But there it was in the White Pages, and I called her. I said, “Hi, I just read John Waters’ book and do people call you all the time?” And she said, “No. You’re the first one.”
BLVR: Was she nice to you?
FA: Totally nice! I explained that I wanted to get John Waters’ address, and then she got my address, and she wrote his address on a postcard or something, and sent it with an autographed picture of herself! So then I wrote him my whole story.”—
Cool story but I kind of wish Fred Armisen had entered into a mentoring correspondence with Cookie Mueller instead of/in addition to John Waters. I love that she sent an autographed picture of herself.
“All loyalties, both in writing and elsewhere, are meaningful only when they’re tested. Being loyal to yourself as a writer is most difficult when you’re just starting out – when being a writer hasn’t yet given you enough of a public return to justify your loyalty to it. The benefits of being on good terms with your friends and family are obvious and concrete; the benefits of writing about them are still largely speculative. There comes a point, though, when the benefits begin to equalise. And the question then becomes: am I willing to risk alienating somebody I love in order to continue becoming the writer I need to be? For a long time, in my marriage, my answer to this was no. Even today there are relationships so important to me that I’m at pains to write around them, rather than through them. But what I’ve learned is that there’s potential value, not only for your writing but also for your relationships, in taking autobiographical risks: that you may, in fact, be doing your brother or your mother or your best friend a favour by giving them the opportunity to rise to the occasion of being written about – by trusting them to love the whole you, including the writer part. What turns out to matter most is that you write as truthfully as possible. If you really love the person whose material you’re writing about, the writing has to reflect that love. There’s still always a risk that the person won’t be able to see the love, and that your relationship may suffer, but you’ve done what all writers finally reach the point of having to do, which is to be loyal to themselves.”—
This part about “doing your brother or your mother or your best friend a favor by giving them the opportunity to rise to the occasion of being written about” seems, on the one hand, like a self-serving delusion — an elegant, logical, beautifully expressed self-serving delusion. On the other hand, I want this all to be true so badly.