Monthly Archives: July 2015

The Fall Guy

Totally Hair Barbie came out in 1992; I was in first grade. I brought the barbie to school with me because I was proud of her. I mean, she was the latest and greatest in Barbie. Her ridiculously long hair reached all the way down to her toes. All of my Barbies had names, but I can’t remember this one’s.

My best friend at the time, the same one who stole and then ate my strawberry crayon (and blamed me when it did not taste like strawberries), was incredibly jealous of my Barbie. “Give it to me,” she demanded, her hand thrust out in the expectant way that only a first grader who had everything could manage.

“No.” I hid the doll behind my back. When we went out to recess, I hid the doll in my desk. I didn’t want it to get dirty. But when we came back in, it was gone.

“I’m gonna cut her ha-air,” my friend said, holding the doll up by her deep brown strands and swinging her in front of me. My friend was, of course, several inches taller than me, and my attempts to jump up and down and try to snatch the barbie as she jumped up and down to keep it away from me drew the attention of our teacher.

“S*,” she ordered, “go sit in the hall on the red crate.”

God, the red crate. I hated that red crate. I was always on it for something. Reading in class. Chewing my fingers in class. Talking in class (no, really, SHE STOLE MY CRAYON). Honestly, most of the instances that landed me on the red crate were the result of my friend, not me. When she wrote on the bathroom wall, I took the fall. When she stole the teacher’s copy of Charlotte’s Web and hid it, I took the fall for that too. I was always her fall guy.

The crate needed a shiny golden plaque with my name on it. But alas.

When my teacher finally let me back in the classroom, I found out she had put the barbie away in her desk. I wouldn’t receive it back until the weekend. That was fine. I was patient. I was used to losing.

When I got her back, I braided her long hair into a bajillion teeny tiny braids. I had always wanted to learn how to braid, and a complacent subject was great for practicing. I used the braids to string her up from a branch of the tree in my grandma’s backyard, and I swung her back and forth. Eventually, I cut off her hair. Because she had been bad.

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Secret Life

“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written in his works.” -Virginia Woolf

When I was in high school, I used to lock myself inside the orchestra practice rooms during our study hall practice time and write. Not about anything particularly life shattering, I just wrote. Even back then, I would pick my journals for their cool factor or their pretty factor. I remember one in particular that was purple and had a gothic purple fairy on the cover, tied shut with a lavender ribbon. When I found the next cool notebook, I would set aside whatever one I was working on and jump to the next. As a result, I am now much older and have a plethora of totes with incomplete notebooks stuffed inside. I cannot bear to throw any of them away.

Green, velvet, hardcover, with a magnetic flap clasp—my favorite of all my old journals. Funny though, how when I flip through it, there are so few pages filled. It’s one of the few that I actively remember its origin. I was sitting on my bed in the adolescent eating disorder unit, or RED, when there was a knock on the door frame. One of my high school teachers. My favorite teacher. She perched on the edge of my bed, and we chatted for a while about nothing much in particular. The journal and a horse pin with two horses, one gold and one silver, racing each other, were her parting gifts to me. “Write your pain,” she told me. I was sixteen years old. I wonder if the reason that particular journal is so empty is because I didn’t know how to write then. I didn’t know how to be the sixteen year old narrator, the current me. Supposedly I know how now.

My current journal is a hardcover, black Moleskin notebook. It’s more full than most of my journals. I bought it when, halfway through this past semester of graduate school, I was ready to tear out my hair from my hatred of writing. “I’ll go back to basics,” I thought. “I’ll write things by hand.” My beginning thesis work then was a struggle bus. (Still is.) People who were reading my work kept telling me that I needed to learn to be more reflective in my writing. I had to “embrace the current me, the 31 year old narrator.” I didn’t want to, but I tried in this journal. I wrote about religion, about sex, about all things with my ex; I wrote about what I thought now about all of these things, and I wrote about why they had come to be the way they had come to be. My joy in handwriting my life story lasted about three weeks. Now I carry that notebook around, because I refuse to buy another one until I can fill this one. But I don’t want to write my thesis anymore. I don’t want to write anything.

I don’t want to be the 31 year old narrator.

I often hear that, as a writer, I am “doing it right.” I don’t know what that means. I try not to laugh at people when they say it. I mean, what is “doing it right” anyway? If “doing it right” is writing, then I’m doing it all wrong. I write what I have to. New work appears occasionally. I tinker with editing old things. But I do not write like I used to. Certainly not like I used to as a child.

One of my notebooks is a green softcover that says “My Diary” on the front. I covered it in Lisa Frank animal stickers. I got that notebook when I was eight years old. I used to take it to the park and pretend I was Harriet the Spy, writing down random things about the people and events that I saw around me. The playground was a particularly great source of material; had I been any older, children’s parents may have thought I was a stalker. I thought that I would always write all the things. I liked that writing came easy. But I’ve learned as I grew older that isn’t what being a writer is at all.

Somewhere along the way I stopped writing everything and anything. When I go out now, I usually wear headphones so people on transit won’t talk to me. I don’t look at strangers unless I absolutely can’t afford it, because I don’t want to engage them. I’m no Harriet the Spy. I’m just me. 

If being a real writer means not writing? I’m certainly “doing it right.”

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