Welcome To My Bed

Having It All: Impossible, But I Want To Anyway

Over the course of the past several days, I have started (and stopped) writing several things to be posted here.  One of them is an essay I've been kicking around for a long time about my unbridled and slightly neurotic love of my fellow New Jersey writer, Junot Diaz.  The other is a very personal bit of matter-of-fact prose about where I was when my father died (it was not at his hospice bedside, as I'm sure a lot of people I'm acquainted with have probably assumed).  The reason you haven't seen either piece, besides the fact of my self-imposed cease-and-desist, is the fault of a complicated breed of anxiety that I've been trying to chase down an name for awhile.

Confession time: I have a really hard time with the personal politics of being a writer.  I get very wrapped up in the ugliness of rejection letters, the even-worse pangs of jealousy over the success of my peers, and the general sense that I am completely missing the "community" part of the writing community I try very hard to contribute to.  I worry about how I seem infinitly more than how I am actually doing as far as any given project is concerned.  This is the unattractive truth: I have still not gotten past constantly looking over my shoulder, wondering what other people think of what I'm up to, and that insecurity rears its head at very unfortunate times, often causing me not to attempt something for fear of publicly fucking up.

I could blame this insecurity on growing up between two very opinionated sisters who have always singled me out as the "odd" one, but in recent years they seem to delight in all of my bizarre tendancies and creative projects in a way that is the most overwhelming support I could ever ask for from people who do not do the same things I do.  I could blame a long string of codependent friendships and relationships that made me believe that the only way to feel important was for me to be a better friend or girlfriend than some other candidate, even when the person I was trying to impress was the wrong person for me in the first place.  I could blame the coded language of rejection letters that comes to me as nightmare narration--a string of vagaries about why I am not worthy written so tersely as to be impossible to parse, or my troublesome take-on-everything-and-smile-through-it personality that has me often over-booking my time so that I cannot do any of the things I take on all that well.  All of these explanations are really just excuses.

I don't want to talk about Ann-Marie Slaughter's now-infamous "having it all" article, but I think I have to get closer to the bone of what I'm talking about.  We all know that the idea of "having it all" in the first place is ridiculous.  The concept was a crutch used by the feminist movement back in the day to open a window into the workplace for my gender, and I am grateful for the autonomy it afforded my generation, but the implication that women must live multiple lives simultaneously in order to satisfy the world at large is part of what frustrates me about being a woman.  I don't think my days would be so fraught if I had a penis.  Maybe that's just an assumption.  But in talking to my male friends and my boyfriend about this, it seems like the assumption may be right.  Most of them aren't constantly concerned with who's doing what and how they can be seen as the most successful of their friends (at least not that they've admitted to).  The way they talk about it, their experience of success is measured against an internal benchmark.  More "personal best" than "best of the rest".

I wish I had the emotional acuity to ignore the influence of outside pressures, or at least to process it in a way this is actually productive.  But I'm not sure I do.  For example, the Junot essay: it's about the ways we make authors we enjoy into imaginary friends, and how that person is destroyed if ever we become familiar with that same author in the process of living his everyday life.  There are turns of it that are meant to be funny in an over-the-top kind of way that I am sure are well done when I think about them in a vacuum, but when I consider my audience, I'm not sure my speaker won't be read as obsessed, insane, and definitely very creepy.  The piece about my father is even worse to think about as something others might read, as its whole premise is wrestling with what I'm sure many people might say I should've been doing in my father's last days.  Both pieces are about teasing out the ways perception alters our experience, but I can't even bear to show them to anybody.

Which is utterly ridiculous.  Junot Diaz will probably never read what I have written about him, not because I will never publish it, but because he is busy with his own reading and writing life, which I'm pretty sure does not involve any version of me, real or imagined.  And I can think of plenty of things no one has any right to tell me how to do: topping the list is how I was meant to process and attend to my father's passing.  But my problem with the politics of these sitautions remains; at once, I know it's impossible to please everyone who might stumble across this humble blog, but I convince myself that if I don't write with pleasing an audience in mind, I might as well never show my work to anybody in the first place.

At the core of all of this is the fear that if I write only for who is reading, I will lose the integrity of my stories.  On the other hand, if I write only for myself, why publish?  Finding a balance would be the obvious solution, but I'm not quite sure how to get there.

On The Quarter-Life Crisis, or, Why Liberal Art Schools Poison Your Expectations of Adult Life

Summer is more than half over and there's been little occassion to breathe.

I have an office job now.  It isn't the best situation on earth, but it also isn't the worst, and they've recently told me they're making me a full-time employee in the fall, which means my second raise since I started in April.  What comes with salary?  Finally beginning to chip away at my student loans, which have been languishing in deferment for the past year while I got my act together.  I, by no means, regret this deferment.  I am of the mind that working a minimum wage job for my first two years in the real world gave me a very concrete understanding of the bare minimum amount of money I need to be able to survive happily.  Now that I make almost double what I was making only a few months ago, I appreciate the wiggle room more.  I can afford to take a cab home some nights if I want.  I can buy my less-flush friends drinks.  I can go to a concert on a whim.  All luxuries I may not have seen as such had I gotten a "real" job right out of college.

I've come across a lot (or at least what seems liek a lot) of commentary on a phenomenon commonly refered to as a quarter-life crisis.  Up until this point, I'd only heard such bizarro terminology in a John Mayer song.  (No, seriously, he has a lyric where he tries to justify a non-commital attitude by saying he might be having a quarter-life crisis.)  But apparently this is a thing people my age are talking about.  Let me just say right now that this concept is UTTER BULLSHIT.  Dear twenty-somethings: you have yet to live; thusly, your life cannot be in crisis.  Just because your parents have stopped paying your bills and sending you care packages and generally holding your hand through all possible hardships does not mean that your existence is awful or oppressive.  It means that you are required to take responsibility.  You know what's excellent about being our age?  How simple it is to change direction.  Don't like your job?  Quit and start fresh.  It's not like you have a decade invested.  You can survive on less money than you think.  Wait tables.  You'll make a lot of money, feel no obligation to anybody you work for or with, and can leave at any time without ruffling anybody's feathers.  Don't like your friends?  There are a million new people waiting to be spoken to in all of the places you go on a daily basis.  Don't like your hobbies?  Stop participating in them, get new ones.

All of the problems discussed in these post-college crisis acrticles miss the point.  It's not that our lives lack meaning.  It's just that we are convinced that everything we do must be meaningful.  So that we can tweet about, make a Facebook event, compose a Kickstarter to fund out dreams, tumbl-blog pictures of our awesome life where everyone is gorgeous and nonchalant and still so impossibly talented and way more interesting than anybody else that has ever existed.  How boring have we become as a society that an exciting life is one that is defined by being able to boil down what we are most passionate about into 140 characters or less?  Dear twenty-somethings: if you think your life is over already, you are the only one who sees it that way.

I'm tired of reading about college-educated young people who are apathetic about circumstances that others might find desirable.  the problem is college.  The problem is a culture of exceptionalism.  You know those awesome jobs everyone promised you could get as long as you got your four year degree and worked an awful unpaid internship and busted your ass?  They are not handed out with the diplomas.  In the work world, you have to start at the bottom, build a skill set beyond writing papers synthesizing critical theories regarding your chosen field of study (be honest--did you really think this would be useful in any arena beyond academia?), and send out resumes whenever you see something that even remotely resembles your dream job.

Here are some true facts: working for a living sucks, being a person is too expensive, and emotional connectivity in our generation is becoming more and more impossible.  Want a remedy?  Me too.  So does everyone.  The best advice I can offer is this--if there's something about your life that is eating at you, change it now before that nagging feeling of defeat becomes the norm.  If you want to make art, make time to make art.  If you want to see friends, make time to see friends.  There may be a finite number of hours in the week, but how many of those do you spend complaining about having a pretty-okay life?

I am more than guilty of ranting and raving about everything I wish could be different, if only I had the means to make change.  But I do, and so do you.

Anyway.  Speaking of twenty-somethings working hard at being awesome instead of griping about how the scholarship for getting stoned and writing poetry ran out after four years, I'm showing my paintings in public for the first time ever at this event, the official Booze Époque launch party on September 15th, as well as reading a bit of booze-themed poetry.  If you're in the Somerville/Cambridge/Boston area, you can get on the guest list by donating $20 to the cause.  Beyond that, there are exciting prizes for your support--at the $150 dollar level, you get one of ten 8"x10" panels I've been toiling over.



Here they are in the early stages.  At the gallery, I'll also have several more small paintings for sale, as well as a few 18"x24" panels.  I am beyond excited to have people see my art somewhere other than at my apartment, where typically a canvas sits on my easel for upwards of six months without much changing.  September 15th in Central Square, Cambridge.  Save the date, donate twenty dollars, drink delicious boutique cocktails with locally-sourced ingredients, and see a bunch of music and poetry performed.  Sounds like a perfect Saturday to me.  I'd love to see you there.  So I can hug you and remind you that there is no such thing as having an easy time all the time.

3 Sorority Girls Walk Into My Cafe --or-- Rape Culture As Reported By Undeclared Feminists

I will start off by stating, unequivocally, that I am deeply prejudiced.  I immediately dislike people involved in Greek life on their campus of choice.  To me, frat-related social activities are about as appetizing (and as bland, and as devoid of value) as Kraft Mac&Cheez.  When someone within earshot mentions an affiliation with such activities, I shut off my ears so as to spare my gag reflex.  I'm not proud of this.  I'm sure plenty of nice people pledge.  It'd just not my cup of tea.

That being said, I was at work yesterday, and three preppy, willowy blondes wandered into the cafe for coffee.  They were perfectly harmless, discussing Jell-O shots and "the sloppy girls" and campus scandal. And then the campus scandal portion of the conversation took a turn from who's-hooking-up-with-whom towards the college's cover-up of a sports-team-related rape.

I didn't hear what school they went to.  Unfortunately, the details they discussed were generic enough to belong to any school that's had such a scandal.  And that's where my heart broke.  Right at the word 'generic'.  The fact that these types of situations are generic at a college level is disgusting and horrifying.  In this particular case, the rape allegations involve the basketball team.  The girls chatted about how predatory the players were when they saw them at bars near campus--how they'd sit back from everyone else and prey upon the freshman girls, specifically choosing those inexperienced and drunk enough to be manipulated.  Now, I obviously haven't seen this behavior firsthand (the closest thing my college had to sport or frat culture was an Ultimate Frisbee team called The Red Scare), but I felt like I knew what they were going to say before they even said it.  It's been in the news so much.  Promising college athlete accused of assault or rape, denies allegations or calls the girl a slut or blames her for being drunk or some combination of all of the above.  College stands by the player, not the victim.  The media twists everything.  Lives are ruined.  The end.

I expected their conversation to veer back towards the frivolous, but it remained in a place of outrage at their school.  According to one girl, their school went nine years without passing along charges of assault or rape handled by campus police to the proper officials in local law enforcement.  Even though it is their on-the-books policy to do so.  Even though it is their moral obligation to do so.  And after 9 years, somebody finally noticed this institutionalization of rape and reported it.  I wonder what kind of reprimand the school received for this transgression of human rights.  The girls spent a good deal of the following conversation making conjectures about how it might feel to be a young woman who reported her assault or rape and have the school officials take down her statement and promise to take action only to sweep the entire thing under the rug.

I had to do everything in my power not to jump into the conversation at several points.  But let me jump in now, after the fact, and say how all of this made me feel about the attitude that colleges routinely take when it comes to assault.  The horror of this, as I stated earlier, is how generic the girls' talk of a basketball team with a rape scandal is.  As woman move towards greater social equality (we've actually statistically surpassed men in terms of college enrollment), these all-too-routine exhibitions of rage, sexual aggression, and moral lapse followed by aggressive institutional cover-up appear in the discourse more and more.  And it isn't just assault of women.  Think about Joe Paterno's disgraceful actions.  Colleges are too afraid of PR nightmares to protect their communities properly.  I am sick over this.

Sexual violence is not about sex, but power.  This kind of behavior is not even invisible in this case, but rather seen, acknowledged, and actively made to disappear.  I wonder if those responsible for the nine years of non-report at this particular school have wives or daughters, or, even more chilling to think, are women themselves.  By doing nothing about assault and rape, the school is essentially condoning it.

Eavesdropping on the three girls was an essential slap in the face for me.  Women are women, regardless of who they associate with or how they choose to conduct themselves.  It is an ugly impulse to write off members of my gender for their social choices when we have the exact same concerns.  It an ugly standard that our chief concern must be rape.  Another of the girls told a story of walking across campus alone at night that contained all of the reasons why my mother hates that I walk home alone from work at night.  Who knows if these girls would call themselves feminists.  But clearly, you don't have to self-identify as a feminist the feel like a victim of rape culture.  And you certainly don't have to be a feminist to expect to feel like you are entitled to protection of your personal safety.

Happy Scandal Day!

...otherwise known as "Singles Awareness Day (SAD)" or "St. Valentine's Day." I much prefer scandal to either of those depressing reasons to consume. I plan on spending zero dollars, listening to "Exile in Guyville" on repeat, and loving with the same intensity that I do every other day of the year.

But in honor of the extra emphasis everyone else is placing on love, here is a Wordle of the words this blog loves.

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And here, David Bowie leads a cultish mid-nineties arts colony of shaved head industrial types who rather enjoy mannequins.



And here, Rihanna ball-gags her detractors and wraps herself in plastic.



And here, Nicki Minaj does the fairy tale thing and is still a BAMF.



And finally, Max Bemis warbles about phone sex and religious guilt.



Watch an endless chain of John Cusack films! Take advantage of candy sales! High five Alanis Morissette! Wonder aloud who the Arcade Fire is!

However you choose to celebrate, be sure to blow a raspberry at those around you acting like it's the end of the relationship if this day isn't the most magical they've ever had.

(And in case you didn't know, the Ribcage Kids are performing at AS 220 in Providence tomorrow night. Doors at 8:45. Come be my anti-Valentine!)

What I think about when there is somewhere else I'd rather be.

I am not good at sleeping in other people's beds. I must keep reminded myself of this. I toss and turn and wake them up thousands of times through the night with my restlessness. I am very, very bad at keeping still when someone else may or may not be watching. I've never been able to figure out why this is. Let's blame it on dance. Let's say it's because I was a dancer for more than half my life and they always said things like, "Don't lock back on your knees!" and "Support from below your ribs!" and "Keep your face breathing even when your body is still!" A ballet studio's jibberish. I have been thinking a lot about how the not-sleep from my ballet days and the not-sleep from my now are very similar. Granted there are the obvious things that set one time apart from another--I am eating now, I am healthy and happy and taking good care of my body; the only exercise I have anymore is the three flights of stairs to my apartment; but the insomnia still strikes and my head goes eight billion miles an hour asking questions of me in a very loud ballet teacher voice. I keep thinking, "You're so talented at these things; sleep or dance, it makes no difference. Just apply yourself, silly girl. You'll get there." I catch sight of myself in a mirror and it feels just like five days of class a week again and I am too fat for music and flat-footed with poor extension and less flexibility than I will admit to. I close my eyes and my head is talking to me again and I will never, ever get to sleep. I want to believe I won't always be manic about the things that make me happy. Some days I just want to abandon myself and start from scratch. First position. Relax your back, hold your arms like this. Good. Breathe. Now, second.

In defense of saying "no means no" to monogamy.

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And because I am sick and getting so much done, I feel I have license to sidetrack myself for just a moment to rant about something that's been grating on me quite a lot in the past month or so.

Let me start by saying that I have not read The Ethical Slut, do not abhor romantic comedies as a general rule, nor do I believe that the institution of marriage is a sham. That being said, I am happily single and casually dating various individuals who I will not incriminate in this essay rant out of respect for their (and our) privacy. I have absolutely no intention of getting any more deeply involved with any one of them. This is not because I am afraid; it is not because I am embittered by any past relationship; it is not "because" of anything. It is what it is. I am dating. Each relationship is good and right and functional and gives me joy in its own way. End of story.

It has come to my attention (mostly via "concerned friends" who claim they only have my "best interests" at heart) that the life I lead is viewed as dangerous, unsettling, and in several cases, downright abhorrent. This is shocking to me. If I am happy, as long as I'm not hurting myself or anyone else, I thought my friends would be happy for me. Not so, says the universe. Remember, you must derive your happiness from sources that the people around you find acceptable. "When in Rome" and all that jazz. You've transgressed the cardinal rule of sharing joy: do not present the masses with a form of happiness derived from a practice which they do not understand. It is like trying to make religious ecstasy tangible to an atheist, trying to translate the triumph of a flawless triple pirouette to someone who hates to dance. Do not tell those who do not live like you how happy you are, because the moment you try to explain, their lack of vocabulary on the subject will leave everyone involved in a very frustrated state.

Thanks for the heads up, universe. But I am going to say it anyway. I do not believe that monogamy is a healthy practice for me. I am of the mind that I have too much love in me to focus it all on one person at once. I believe that love is both a choice and a responsibility, not a mystical and uncontrollable state that one falls into and out of willy-nilly. Attraction is only the first step on a long road of decision-making that leads to and should strengthen the connection between partners. Love comes from these decisions to be responsible, caring, and present. Thusly, the validation that many of my friends derive from possessing their partners, I am able to derive from all of my less-than-tacked-down relationships, both those that involve sex and those that do not. Down to my most incidental friendships, I am a fiercely loyal person. There are plenty of people in this world I love so intensely that I would not only die, but kill for them. There is room in my heart for all of them. But this loyalty does not ultimately result in surrender. And to me, to have any one person call me "theirs", to possess me in a way that thereby means no one else has the opportunity to, would be an unnecessary surrender of myself. When it comes to love, I also have a responsibility to love myself. I am best able to do that alone, unattached, uncoupled, single, whatever you want to call it.

That being said, a troubling thing has been cropping up in conversation lately. I'll call it, for lack of a better way to characterize it, an unwillingness to believe my lifestyle is healthy, or, at worst, an unwillingness to believe that it exists at all. People assume that I have either numbed myself to what I am doing, or that I have buried my desire for commitment for fear of being hurt. Dear, dear friends belittle my decision to remain non-monogamous as a choice that will be my un-doing--as if I am King Lear teetering on the precipice of certain insanity.

And to those friends, I address myself now: I would like to tell you my love life is none of your business, but that would be a lie. It is your business, because you are a part of it. I love you. Even though you do not understand they way that I live, nor are you willing to believe that it could work for me without causing some damage, either on a daily basis, or at some point down the road. My love for you is just as important as the love I have for my blood family, my chosen families, my partners in business, pleasure, art, and intellect. And that is what I want you to see. I can love you and all of them, and where that gets me is only to a place of greater and more serious happiness.

There is no measure of love that is unimportant or repulsive. There is no specific place or space where love "belongs". There is no chant or name to invoke or ceremony to carry out that makes one kind of love more holy than any other. Love is only love, and can only be love. Romantic, platonic, what have you--these are just boxes we are given for sorting. I refuse to sort any of it. Let it be a mess. So what if you don't understand how I sleep at night without some specific face to greet me on my pillow. I get to sleep either way.

Forgive me nothing. Deny me everything. I will continue to love you anyway.

What I think about on an empty stomach and an overflowing head.

How is it that July is colder than June? I fell asleep in long sleeves and pants last night, under a comforter no less. I snuggled with a cat. July is not allowed to allow this. I have been writing letters on the backs of "damaged item" tags while working the dressing rooms. They aren't meant for envelopes. They are letters to future poems I know will get written eventually , love letters that say, "I know you are awesome a few weeks from now." I don't have quite the heart to sit down and make these poems (or stories, or chapters of my novel) yet. I am buried in rain. No one ever knocks on the front door, they just walk into my apartment, or yell, "Helloooo?!" in a very confused voice, as if they are coming over unannounced. As of yet, no one has actually come over unannounced. We leave for Minnesota in about a week. I leave for Boston tomorrow night after work. I want lots of vacations, breaks from all of this tornado warning. There was thunder so loud two days ago that I screamed and dropped my phone. The sky turned muddy water. There was no one in the house with me to hear it. Just like there is no food here to eat. A little boy came up to me today and the sidewalk sale and his sister stood in front of him and said, "He has something to tell you." But he just stood behind her and shook his head, tucking his chin into his neck and wouldn't say anything. And then she blurted out, "He really likes your hair." And he nodded, and looked embarrassed. And she looked at me and smiled, said, "Look, she's blushing," and they both laughed and walked away. It was a happy laugh though, much better than the we-only-complimented-you-to-see-the-look-on-your-face-afterwards kind of smile. Lately there are so many things to think about and so little time to do any of the thinking. I cut my hair off again to get closer to the thinking, to let myself know I was still brave enough. I don't feel as brave as I used to when the wind was this close to my scalp. Maybe the razor loses a little bit of its magic every time. I sing a lot of David Bowie to myself when the car radio should be playing. I've taken up praying in French again.

What I think about in the interstice between table-waiter and register-jockey.

I need to not be so broke. Money makes me selfish, selfless, too many conflicting things. Carrie shook me by the shoulders and told me not to be a stripper. Selling my skin seems easiest. Selling my smile never worked as well as I wanted it to. Somehow, skin is more real to people than teeth. Or maybe they are just more honest about wanting skin than they are about wanting teeth. Hello, hump-day of summer. Four weeks until I am elsewhere. In four weeks I will be new skin and new hair and the dust of the Midwest and poems for a literal week and hotel swimming pool antics and space through my fingers and other people's beer and white sheets. Poets don't have jobs. Poets get paid to dream, and very little. Poets get paid and then they get drunk and then they get broke and then they write more poems, and so it goes. This is the place I chose to call mine in this heat. This is the bed I will not make. I am lying on my mattress with all the sheets on the floor next to me. It is too hot for housekeeping. We go to the laundromat and read books, go to the grocery store and buy beans. This living thing is simple, if quietly expensive. Perhaps there is a way to stay whole. To not melt. To kiss without losing my tongue. I have turned all my sharp edges into diamond cuts. I am polished well, if flawed. I can make correct change. Play well with others. Move things through space. I have hands. I like the word, "Hello". I have lots of skin, but a much more interesting mouth. I will use it to smile. I will.

Observe.

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+ That picture has nothing to do with anything.

+ The writing in Rolling Stone has gotten so shitty that I am convinced they've given run of the magazine to twelve-year-olds. Or monkeys. Or sea horses. Or maybe glossy journalism is just on its way to dead.

Honestly. The interview with Lady Gaga was booooooooorrrrringgggg. Do we really care that she eats chicken fingers on her our bus post-concert?? Somebody seemed to think so. But the compelling information was all buried under "I don't want to talk about it"s, which the writer seemed perfectly okay accepting. Sweet tenacity, RS. I would have like to see the writer ask her some hard hitting questions, but s/he seemed content to let Gaga decide what was getting talked about, so much so that some of the questions weren't so much questions as they were--and I'm being quite literal here--a simple, encouraging "I understand". HELLO???!! I mean, I know that print media is losing readership, but maybe that's because print media is letting itself go worse than a housewife four kids deep with a lapsed gym membership and a husband who's stepping out on her with the dry cleaner's daughter. The music reviews were somehow better written than the featured articles.

Do people really get journalism degrees so that they can fuck around, make parallelism mistakes, overuse m-dashes, and get paid? If so, sign me up. I'd love to forget that proofreading exists.

NOT.

+ I haven't seen my roommate in nearly two days. I know where she is, but I find it difficult not to be concerned.

+ The reason that jobs make you give two weeks notice, the REAL reason, is so that you have to endure the gauntlet of co-workers giving you shit for leaving. In my current situation, every shift I work is drowned in pleas for me to stay. I know I work hard (I don't know how to do things any other way). What I did not know was that I was so deeply loved by everyone at my restaurant. It's making things really tough. I get choked up about it at least once a day, usually when someone new finds out when my last day is. I invariably have to go through the explanation of why I had to switch jobs, which puts all my anxiety to the front of my mind. And then they get sad. And then I get sad. And then I run away into the kitchen to sneak a handful of croutons so that I have something to do (eat) besides all of this sad stuff. I hate goodbyes. They always feel wrong. No one is dying here, at least not anyone directly involved with work. I try to remedy the whole affair with deep breaths. Some days it works. Other days, not so much.

+ Have spent the better part of this week talking myself out of spending my rent money on another tattoo. Don't worry though, no appointment has been made. And I am writing a check to my landlord as we speak so the temptation isn't there. Even though it is. I hate being so broke. June is the worst restaurant month ever. Good thing I'm done with restaurants for awhile.

What I think about the morning I apply for another job.

I was standing at the bar yesterday, waiting for change for a hundred dollar bill, and I realized how utterly ridiculous money is as a concept. Trading paper for real things? Who decided this made sense? My mother is fretting at the kitchen table about how she is going to continue to afford to trade shit for other shit. I don't like it. I don't like writing checks. I don't like my money box, however practical it is, because it reminds me of how valueless my time is to some people. Here I am, blue hair and tattoos, trying to make ends meet. I rearrange my resume, trade one euphemism for a better, more vague, counterpart. I debate wearing the dress I bought yesterday afternoon at Uncle Margaret's. I want to crawl into a pile of vintage clothes and never come out, even if all of it smells like armpits. I've been reading Salinger's Franny and Zooey and wanting to go around chain smoking in well-structured dresses and gloves and little hats, though the book doesn't really have any one in it like that. I want something simpler. Not financial aid paperwork that still goes unfiled because I know nothing about my parents' Social Security numbers, not waiting tables for far less money than I hope to have at the end of each week. I don't want to be a slave to a paycheck. But problems keep barreling towards me, like I am in an ice field with no choice but to go down with the ship. I have a reoccurring dream that I have to put my little brother through college, and today, that possibility isn't too divorced from the truth.

What I think about on the day I get my new bed.

I am tired of floors and couches, tired of the armrest of my car pressing into my face. I want furniture again. I like the idea of having all of my things in my car, moving around with me, but it's not a practical choice, especially when three trips isn't nearly enough to get me moved in. I got my keys at 2 o'clock in the morning, banged up and down the back stairs with two typewriters, a sleeping bag, the lucky cat for the kitchen, and a bunch of clothes I can't hang up yet because my hangers are sitting in Wayne's garage. I'm pretty sure the neighbors already want to murder me and it's not been 24 hours. This afternoon, Cass gets back, I pick up a U-Haul, and we get real serious about moving. I can't wait to cook my first meal in my lime green kitchen. I can't wait to buy a cookie jar that moos or some other garage sale nonsense, just because I can, just because I have my very own place to live now. This is a much bigger deal than I expected it to be. I have no internet, no TV, nothing in the place but boxes and bags just yet, but already it feels like mine. Pop Tarts on the counter, a cigarette clipped and left on the porch. Until September, this will be home. A claw-foot bath tub and every hole in the walls. I am in love. We have a porch. A PORCH. The magnitude of this overwhelms. I want to shout from our porch that tonight will be the first night of my life that I will sleep in a bed that I bought, in a house that I pay rent for. This is good, this adult stuff. Especially when I know I'm going to treat it all like summer camp. Those Pop Tarts are 'smores flavor, and I ate fro-yo for dinner last night. I want Cass to get here already so we can live like children, buy ice pops, have kitchen dance parties, make too much noise. Oh. And jump on my new bed. Cos y'all know that needs to take place.

Returning to roost in a new nest.

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1. Over my shoulder, you will observe some odd decor choices. This is because, for some inexplicable reason (or really just because my dad is out of town for the holiday), I am staying in the "master bedroom" while visiting home for the weekend. Ever since my mom moved into my basement bedroom, where I sleep while visiting is a strange and delicate fish that is usually not handle well; I typically end up sleeping in the attic with my sisters. It feels like the orphanage dormitory a la Madeleine, minus the nun, although my G-ma would make a pretty convincing nun. That room has so many beds in it, and I guess it makes sense, being that the three of us (myself and my sisters) used to all live up there together at some point, although I can't remember exactly when because there has been so much room shuffling within this house. Everyone has lived in the room that is now my brother's for some period of time, however large or small, and with varying degrees of success. And now that only Chrissie lives at home, it becomes the location of the seasonal sister slumber party. This slumber party is not as much fun as it sounds. My sisters (and I love them dearly in spite of this) tend to gang up on me when the three of us are all in the same location for more than two days at a time, making my stays in the attic with them contentious. There is usually at least one major argument about this during a given stay, although the parties involved change every time. But hopefully there will be no arguments this time, since I get the BIG BED to myself! Yay!!! For the time being, I am building my weekend work nest in this Sleep Number bed (unbelievably comfy!). This means a trade off: quiet time and privacy for writing versus the added distraction of eight billion cable channels, but I think I can handle that.

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2. In my hands, you will observe my weekend reading list, or at least the best and most beloved parts of it. From top to bottom: Caits Meissner's "a vessel of love/(a glass of wine.): 40 Day Vigil"; Black Warrior Review Fall/Winter 2009; Rachel McKibbens' Pink Elephant; Jade Sylvan's The Spark Singer; and Plath's Ariel: The Restored Edition, for my final paper. I have chosen to spend this large chunk of time with only ladies because I am in my final push for the new chapbook and I need good female heads to get the wheels in my own female head turning. Also, all of the books aforementioned are amazing and inspiring, each containing a different facet of what I need to write honestly, and well. I am excited to have them here while I finish this journey. Additionally, they are each a kind of comfort food, which is necessary in light of the holiday, and in light of the fact that I can only chew with one side of my mouth.

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3. Speaking of this injured mouth situation, I apparently have a wisdom tooth that's trying to sneak out as if nobody's looking. Clearly it carries all of the leftover teenage rebellion I forgot to flush from my system before I turned twenty. I told the tooth it was not allowed out, that there were reasons for the rules of my mouth, but no, it had to have its way, and now I take 500 mg amoxicillin 3 times a day and 600 mg ibuprofen 3-4 times a day and a half tablet of Vicodin whenever the pain becomes absolutely unbearable (which lately has been always, but I really just needed the prescription to be able to sleep comfortably through the night). Before I went to the campus nurse practitioner on Monday after class, I had been sleepless and grouchy, and now I feel a dull ache, but that's about it. I am sure the drugs are helping, but it also may be a side effect of the Ravi Shankar. I'm trying to chill myself out through all possible mediums being that stress can only make pain worse. By taking my mind off of this rebellious, partially exposed wisdom tooth, I won't have to think about what kind of mockery I will have to make of Thanksgiving dinner in order to eat it tomorrow. The general consensus among my friends is that it will end up being some gravy shake abomination, and it's funny, because I never imagined the reason that would keep me from turkey on Thanksgiving would be a dental emergency. I was much more inclined to imagine sudden onset veganism. Or an alternative holiday where pie is the only food present (chicken pot pie, pumpkin pie, Eskimo pie, etc.). I'm not sure I'll even be able to eat any pie, which is a travesty, because this is the first holiday where I have not been a pie virgin. I abstained from pie for my entire life until last spring when Peter and I started baking together once a week, making this my first Thanksgiving on the other side of that silly abstinence. And to go without pie now, it seems a cruel joke. I suppose it is my own fault though. Or my silly teenage tooth. So spiteful.

The mouth fills with string.

1. I have a toothache, a condition that implies an abscess that must be drained (ew), a wisdom tooth that needs pulling (ow!), or a possible future root canal (ugh...). None of these options is desirable, and nothing I've tried as a pain remedy has helped. I've done several suggested home techniques (dissolving a baby aspirin over the tooth, holding a mouthful of whiskey in the cheek of the affected side, biting down on a hot Tetley tea bag, using mouthwash, etc.) but they're not as effective as I need them to be. I doubt I'm going to sleep very well, if I can ever get to bed. I just drove to the 24 hour CVS in Chicopee to buy Orajel as a last resort, and even the maximum strength stuff has only slightly dulled the throbbing. And when is my dentist appointment? Sometime after December 17th, when I'm next in Jersey for an extended period, and then at the end of December, my dental insurance goes poof! Hopefully, this swollen, painful situation is resolved by then. I would scream very loudly, in hopes that making a loud noise would distract me from the pain, but Cass fell asleep hours ago, so for now I will just mime screaming, and you will get the idea.

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2. While in Jersey, I went to Loser Slam for the first time. Any other time I've spent in Long Branch up to this point has been in service of a family reunion. I much prefer being there for poetry, even if poetry in Long Branch is not at the beach. I ended up winning the slam, much to my surprise. Read about that, and other poetry exploits of mine, here.

3. My G-ma went on a tirade this afternoon while I was hanging out with my family in our kitchen about my nose ring. She asked me if the money it took to pay for the piercing couldn't have been better spent feeding a starving child somewhere. Chrissie (who also has her nose pierced) and I just looked at each other and bit our tongues to keep from laughing. Couldn't the money spent on anything be put to better use feeding a starving child?? A direct quote from the rant: "You're not jungle bunnies." I'm glad she didn't start in on tattoos. I'm still not sure she's seen the 82, and if she has, she hasn't mentioned it. I'm fairly certain she disapproves of almost everything about my lifestyle. I cannot imagine what kind of conversation will ensue the first time she and I discuss touring poets or other such semi-starving artists. But she did give me a bunch of bananas and some vegetable lasagna to take back to school, so it was difficult to be mad at her.

4. The Posthumous Voice in Women's Writing from Mary Shelley to Sylvia Plath by Claire Raymond is one of the most intellectually pretentious collections of essays I have ever laid eyes on. It does have the word "posthumous" in the title, so I suppose I should have known better, but I was holding out hope that there were big, thoughtful ideas to back up the massive, wordy titles, and no cigar. Just lots of reliance on Derrida (blech), among other pretentious academic fall-backs that typically prevent an essayist from having an original, inspiring thesis. Sample sentence:

Indeed, the self-elegist claims her understanding of the cultural mechanics of mourning, her exquisite schooling in private poetics.

Seriously, Claire Raymond, what does that even mean?! You go on for twenty-five pages, and I made your same argument (that Plath's "The Rabbit Catcher" both takes agency from and gives it back to the speaker of the poem) in less than two pages. D. H. Lawrence, or Keat's treatment of antiquity really don't have anything to do with what you're saying, nor does the imagery of the rabbit from Alice's Wonderland, nor the discussion of Aurelia Plath's elevation of her collection of Emily Dickinson poems to the status of family Bible that you open the essay with. How do these things even get published?

5. It feels silly to be back at school only to be leaving again on Wednesday afternoon. I wish I could go to the Cantab this week. I am dreading Christmas break because of how totally it will separate me from the things that have been making me creative lately-- the Cantab, the Lady Poet house, the umbilical cord connecting me to the Five College library system. I promised my parents they would see me read poetry in public at least once this winter (I should have swallowed such a promise before I ever uttered it, but it's too late to go back now...) and I am scared of what they will think of me. They nod a lot when I try to explain my experience at open mics, but I know they don't really get what I'm trying to articulate. Maybe once they see it (if I don't die of embarrassment in the middle of the experience) for themselves, we'll be on more level ground. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever stop feeling like a foreign object shoved uncomfortably into the middle of my family that doesn't belong there even out of irony.

Five things (11.17).

1. I gave myself a haircut today. I keep getting indecisive about whether or not I want to venture growing the stuff out, but the scissors are always triumphant.

2. I have a headache that will not quit. I am not happy about this. I have to drive to New Haven to retrieve Sean from the train (somehow, this train station business sees fit to plague me on a semi-regular basis) and I'm not looking forward to it. I must keep the gas money in mind.

3. Ticketmaster has to be one of the worst and most disorganized companies EVER, and here's why: after selling my sister our Lady Gaga tickets not without much strife and page-reloading (I won't even go into the ludicrous pre-sale issues we faced and eventually gave up on), they contacted her several days later to notify her that they had accidentally given us handicapped seats and thus had to cancel the sale, and sadly could not provide replacement tickets because the show was now sold out. Now, besides being sloppy and aggravating, they were basically lying. TicketsNow, a resale company that they own, is still selling tickets (although the "cheap" seats are upwards of $130). Now, I don't care how much red tape they'd be sidestepping, if we made a big enough fuss, we could probably have tickets. But who wants to sit on hold for hours at a time only to be told by multiple representatives that no one is at fault. UMMM EXCUSE ME: if your computerized ticket-choosing system gives us tickets you cannot technically sell us, then I'm pretty sure it's your fault. No wonder they have lawsuits on their hands. So much for scalping being illegal. FAIL, Ticketmaster. EPIC FAIL.

4. After deciding to go home to Jersey this weekend for happy, carefree reasons (getting writing done, spending time with my family, etc.), I found out yesterday morning that a family member passed away and now the weekend will be spent in funerary ways. On top of the already awful impact that had on me, I also had to grapple with the fact that no one even told me he was sick, and his death wasn't exactly sudden. I'm getting very tired of my family try to "protect" me by withholding things. It's amazing-- sometimes I feel like I absorbed all the emotional sensitivity in the house, so that I can be sad enough for ten people, whereas the rest of them act like robots and don't discuss anything that isn't Jesus or dinner menu. I was really looking forward to a little R & R, and now I'm dreading this trip; I'm probably going to spend the whole weekend biting my tongue to keep from reprimanding my parents.

5. In happier news, I just had an aimless meeting with my committee member about community service, concert tickets, writing process, and slam poetry. I never thought I would be discussing the aforementioned Lady Gaga disaster with one of my writing professors, but I'm just so frazzled today that that's where the conversation ended up, besides discussing Bob Dylan and scamming seats at a Cream show in Albany back in the day. The conversation eventually turned to our final meeting for me Div 2 (this whole thesis thing is basically happening NOW), and then we realized she'd be free to be in Boston on Wednesday night for once (she lives in the city and commutes west for little chunks of the week to work at Hampshire). Just so happens, that particular Wednesday is the Cantab semi-final for season champ, which I could potentially end up competing in (if I EVER win a Cantab slam, that is). Regardless of whether I end up slamming then or not, it'll still be exciting to introduce one of my professors to my unofficial writing classroom, especially because many Hampshire poets love her dearly. And there I go, talking about her as if she's some retired old fogey. She isn't. She's really rad. She has a framed picture of Joe Strummer above her desk in her office and a doctoral degree in anthropology. Sometimes she makes me seriously consider what my life would be like if I became an academic. But shh, don't tell anybody.

When I have no notebook.

It is the middle of October and the leaves are half-fallen and half not. Everyone keeps saying we'll be getting snow soon, but I'm not ready for that. This cold snap has all of me confused, and I haven't been sleeping well (or really at all) lately, so the disorientation is doubled. Maybe even tripled. I hallucinated that sparks were flying away from me like lightning bugs as I was walking down the stairs to my living room. I try to explain the way the world looks like shifting sand with sometimes hovering blobs and sometimes squiggles of light and no one quite knows how to respond. I am becoming increasingly more certain that my role in the Lady Poet House is as the "weird" roommate, just as my role in life (according to Sean anyway) is as the "crazy" girl. Everyone else seems much more unhinged than I am.

Sophia and I are writing a duet based on responses to the lyric "what kind of fuckery is this". I haven't written mine yet. I don't know if she's written hers. We decided to do this just a few hours ago, so she probably hasn't done it. The whole thing just makes me think of driving to the Cantab those first few months of life in New England, and Sean singing at the top of his lungs. I'm not sure how the poem will turn out. Hopefully we write about things that end up somewhat congruent.

I have to get my manuscript printed so that I can give it to my professor and stop obsessing. I brought a poem to workshop today that he was somewhat ecstatic about, and I nearly cried at the joy of that feeling of approval. Is that what I am doomed to be constantly waiting for? A room full of people to ooh and ahh at toiled-over word choices? Slam has changed so many things. I want to look better on page. That sentence could have multiple meanings. I mean it in all of them.

I haven't slept at Hampshire for a solid weekend since September. This bed doesn't belong to me. I hate the idea of sleeping on a mattress that has been fucked on by more people than I've slept with.

This weekend, there will be many parties. Maybe I will go out. Probably not.

I keep having off-color dreams that feel like falling down stairs when I wake up out of them. In them, there are always lots of hands, but I rarely remember anything else.

"Searchers found the remains of a body..."

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Clearly I am back in Jersey, because the only movies available to watch are on video. The bulk of them from a company called Feature Films For Families. Oh yes, it's good to be here.

I'm watching network news for the first time since last year, and it's incredibly disgusting. Maybe since I've been exposed to so much cable news since being at school, and the differences are jarring. But it's more likely that I'm appalled to see fat cats and broken water mains getting more coverage than financial policy or the effects of the financial crisis or anything to do with the armed forces. Maybe the problem with local news is its near-sightedness. There was apparently a water main break near the Holland Tunnel this afternoon. But Diana Williams probably couldn't tell me any war statistics. This is not to say that slam poets are better harbingers of news than those paid to deliver it (although in this case, I'd be prepared to say as such). I just wish I felt like the Eyewitness team cared about things that are real. God forbid they scare their core audience of senior citizens. Being in Philly, immersed in heavy political commentary for the past couple of days, has soured me on this filler.

Weren't news anchors once determined journalists? Do they even care about New Jersey's fattest cats? I don't begrudge the weather man, only the people who are supposed to be synthesizing things for the people who will not seek out any other news source. I'm bordering on ashamed here.

Let me tell you a secret.

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Promise not to tell anyone? Okay, here goes. Men will be boys. That's all for that.

In real news, Philly has been wonderful to us thus far, and tonight is the last night of festivities, so I plan on making it outrageous. The first night, we came in dead last in our bout, in spite of the audience absolutely loving us. Listen up, because I'm only going to say this eight billion times: slam doesn't make any sense. I was proud of how we performed our shit though. Then we went to watch Emerson's bout, which they rocked so hard, coming in first. Then it was time to get drunk. I had a lot of Soco, then piled on some Colt 45, and the combination did me no favors. I spent most of the night on the bathroom floor arguing with myself about many complicated things. A lot of crying happened.

Day 2: We ate lunch at a really fantastic Indian buffet (that was amazingly cheap as well), took second in our bout, and commenced partying for the second night. The cipher in the lower lobby of the hotel was lame, so we started our own with Emerson in one of their hotel rooms, which was awesome. I read a new poem that I am incredibly proud of. It was an alright night, although there is a certain amount of drama that refuses to resolve itself. AJ and I stayed up far too late for our own good, a large portion of that time spent either hanging out on the hotel smoking porch with Connor Dooley and company, or sitting on the floor in the hall talking about how retarded everything has been since we got here.

On our way to watch the first semi-final bout, we ran into two of the guys from Wyoming that we talked to last night, and one of them said (and this is really a quote), "So I didn't have the guts to tell you this last night, but you are delightfully gorgeous." In retrospect, I should have punched him, but I was feeling more flabbergasted than feisty at the time, so he didn't get what he deserved. Saying something like that to someone, especially when you're here for what is basically a writer's convention, is like telling them that the only thing you care about knowing is their face. It's really frustrating trying to be taken seriously when all anybody's willing to do is eye-fuck you. Poets are such hypocrites.

Finals are tonight, which means there is going to be straight up insanity in this hotel later, because everyone is going to be trying to get in one last night of partying. I can only imagine what all of it will look like.

I kind of can't wait to go home tomorrow morning. I really just want to be in a less manic state, even if it will only be slightly less manic. I have to go to court on Tuesday. Goddamn.

Ending this.

I'm getting a little frustrated, and I promised myself I wouldn't, but I am posting something I wrote the other day, even though apparently I'm not even allowed to post my own writing on a blog that I created and maintain. Anyway, we all know what this is about.

To the Anonymous Blog Commenter -

This morning
I took a butter knife
to my thigh at the breakfast table
and cut out a sizable chunk
for you.
It's in the mail.
Dividing myself
among cardboard boxes and tight white envelopes -
but the pieces don't just find their way
to mailboxes I have had hands in
before. That is why I am sending one to you.

I got a postcard from Spain
today, apologizing for mistaking
my left lung for salted pork; at least someone can use it.
Got a tin can phonecall from down the road
asking to borrow my eyes for the afternoon and said yes.
My skin is an archive
holding in piles of letterbomb
that will not reveal themselves
when shaken. They will not detonate
until you hold them in your own hands
and know that you are
the same brand of homemade explosive.

You are too scared to name yourself
so I will call you "Peter" because the last Peter I knew
defined himself by dead men
who cannot ask him questions,
because Peter was a rock to build the Church on
and denied his brother three times,
because Peter is meant as stone wall and you
are unmoving.

I know each piece
I excise from my body -
muscle-tumor ripped from skin and wrapped
in paper like a butcher's kiss.
I am sure they'll be carried to places
I have never met
and I can't be held responsible
for whose hands are bloodied in the process;
just remember that I am scattered shrapnel,
know that you'll recognize
what I have given you
when it comes through your mail slot,
a stone through the highest window
of the church you built over someone else's corpse.

Go ahead, deny me.
We are made from the same things.
So don't tell me you can't recognize
human flesh.

Recession is NOT the new chic.

I am so tired of the word recessionista. It's not a real word. It makes me want to stab my eyes out with the pick end of my comb.

While sorting the newspapers this morning, I noticed that the Boston Globe ran a fun little article in their lifestyle section about how saving money has now become cool, something to brag about even. I am insulted by this, endlessly insulted. Suddenly everyone who used to be shopping at Barney's is buying their Armani suits on consignment. Big fucking deal. Speaking as someone who has never been able to afford Armani (Exchange or otherwise), I don't understand why the formerly wealthy need to publicly declare a curb in their spending habits in order to be okay with them. And don't even get me started on the way the fashion world is handling the economic slump. I have had it up to here with articles like "50 ways to be a recessionista" or "Tips from a Recessionista: 5 ways to be cheaply chic", which imply that women cannot survive without money and will have to do their best to fake it until they get some cash again. I think I have it on pretty good authority that none of these people would ever go digging through this:

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looking for a bargain. These are the people who think that Beacon's Closet is a bargain bonanza, but I'm pretty sure that selling people's used clothing at the retail prices of the average mall storefront is highway robbery and should not be tolerated.

It's people like this that make me ashamed of myself; they make me self-conscious by drawing attention to themselves. I haven't bought a new piece of clothing in six months, probably even more than that. And here they are, unable to live without famous names on the insides of their t-shirts. Buy gift cards off eBay? I think they should probably save their money until they have enough to buy their souls back from the consignment store.

Massholes.

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(ambulance borrowed from Wonderful Universe)


So today is a day that will live in infamy as one of the worst driving days I have ever experienced. And not because it snowed again, because miraculously we've managed to avoid new precipitation here for at least the past few days (fingers crossed that the blessing will continue). But because everyone, and I mean everyone, Cassandra and I had the pleasure of sharing the road with on our errand day had decided that stop signs only mean slow down, that changing lanes is something does not require signaling, that driving in parking lots is synonymous with running down pedestrians, and that being an ambulance means you clearly do not understand spacial relationships.

We had two very simple objectives: 1) pick up the poems Cass has to edit for her Smith poetry class from Seeyle Hall, and 2) grab some essentials at Target. The woman at the business office even gave me a daffodil for no reason when I cashed my paycheck, which I mistakenly took as a good omen. I really should have known better. The running stops signs and general asshole driving is a pretty standard occurrence here, so I guess I can excuse that, but one incident goes far beyond what I ever expected.

After leaving the Smith campus, we were driving through Northampton when our conversation was interrupted by the dulcet tones of an ambulance siren. Being in the left lane of, we couldn't exactly get right without risking death, so we pulled towards the divider and waited. Even with plenty of room to coast right on through to our starboard side, the ambulance stupidly pulled up behind us and put on even more obnoxious sirens. So we started to pull forward in order to get to the right side of the street, and even though it was clear that's what we were doing, the ambulance driver found it necessary to shout over a loudspeaker "Get to the right!" Which we did. The ambulance finally passed us and then nearly crashed into the back of a pick-up truck. Maybe someone was drunk. The world will never know.

But at least I have this flower. Even with asshole drivers, and my living room and kitchen completely over-taken by a movie crew that has banished me to my room hungry and alone, I still have a little memory of spring. Also, I got a lot of laundry done today, which is always a plus.

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