Thursday, February 23, 2012

Storying down memory Laney

My last name used to be Laney. I pretend like I kept Laney as a middle name (see my blog URL), but the truth is that I lacked the presence of mind when getting my name changed after marrying Aron to realize that I wanted to keep my old last name as my lasting middle name. Lots of people call me "Amy Laney," and I like going by that singsongy nickname; it seems way less sober than Amelia Blair Hall. I'm truly happy to have taken my husband's last name, even though some people think it's terribly traditionalistic in the worst ways. As some hopelessly jaded feminist once pointed out, most women either have their husband's or their father's last name. I want both of them, because they both feel like mine. Anyway, this paragraph was only meant to explain the last part of my bad pun, "memory Laney." The rest of this post will endeavor to explain the first part of my bad pun, which is so bad that what it's punning is probably not even obvious. "Storying" is supposed to stand-in for "strolling." Hardy har-har, or, assuming my post title punning is as ineffective as it now seems:  hardly har-har. If that's a bad pun too, then it's hardly har-har ad infinitum.

Today while Graham napped I looked through an old notebook filled with creative writing attempts, and then I spread some the notebook's contents on our bed. I have a lot of junk, most of which I once felt a quickly fleeting pride over. Typically my story pride lasts the night that I work on a story and until noon the next day, when I discover it's no good and banish it to the old notebook. And I rarely look at the old notebook, but today, I did. This is the story of the some stories I found.

There's a story that takes place in a funeral home and that's about the grandfather of a large family who dies and leaves behind, among other things, a massive marble bust of himself, which none of the family members either wants or wants to get rid of, so they each try to talk/manipulate the others into taking it. No one but a young granddaughter is willing to take over ownership of the bust, and no one takes her offer seriously because she lives in a dorm. There's more to it than that, but I don't know how to explain it. 

There's a story called "The Snack Station" about a college-aged girl whose hair is cut off by an evil, overly made-up snack station vendor; the vendor gets her just desserts when, after having her locks raped, the victim uses the same pair of stealing-scissors to stab a hole in to the vendor's hand. There's more to it than that, but I don't know how to explain it.

There's the story about a high school atheist, Molly, whose older brother, Pete, commits suicide after first getting rid of all of his possessions. He even cancels library and video store memberships and drops out of college before slitting his wrists, which he does while naked, and no one can figure out what Pete would have done with his clothes, which can't be located even in any dumpsters nearby Pete's apartment. At Pete's funeral Molly tells her grieving family and friends the story of when she and Pete, as very young kids, killed a slug by pouring salt on it, which makes slugs disappear entirely. After killing the slug, Molly felt guilty and cried her remorse to Pete, who promised they'd never hurt anything again. Then she and Pete walked two miles to K-Mart and got a kitten from a box belonging to a family obviously overburdened by cats. They named the cat Slug, and so Molly says that she feels that the first slug is alive somehow in the second. And she says that even though Pete and his things are gone, he, in some strange way, remains. She talks about a presence that's definite but difficult to articulate, and her family and friends think she's talking about God, so they urge her, right after her brother is dead and covered with dirt, to go into the ministry. So she does, even though she's an atheist. While she's attending the seminary she starts to date Pete's vain best friend, Andrew, who follows a strict carb-free diet and may have had something to do with Pete's death.

There's a story I wrote fairly recently called "The Vomit Chronicles," which I submitted to the University’s literary magazine almost two years ago and which was REJECTED like I expected. It's supposed to be a spoof of a detective story, which might've worked if I could write like a tough guy. The story is inspired by true events:  when Aron and I lived in an apartment complex downtown, some jerk kept getting drunk (I assume) and vomiting in the hallways, and some mornings it wasn't even possible to leave the building, which had four different exists, without passing one of the vomit spots. Vomit really, really grosses me out, and I felt like I was going to lose my fucking mind it was so disgusting. I'm sure there are still stains on the floor from this period of the apartment complex's history. Anyway, the title is supposed to be a pun:  vomit choric-ills. The story is mainly about a non-detective sent to investigate the case of the vomiter. Instead of explaining why a non-investigator becomes responsible for the case, I'll just share the first part of the story in my next blog post.

There were several other stories in the old notebook, one of which I wrote in eleventh grade with the intention of incorporating into it all the vocabulary words from my English class that year. This was a very ambitious project. I had failed ninth grade English. Tenth grade was a slightly less unsuccessful year for me academically, but by tenth grade my failure wasn't a very distant fact of my past. I technically failed all of ninth grade, and I was terrified in tenth grade of my yearbook photo being placed with the ninth grade photos, which it wasn't. I graduated high school with a very low GPA, maybe because I spent my time writing stories with words that I didn't quite know how to use yet, words like reprobate and probity. Anyway, I was really in love with this vocabulary story, a love that lasted more than an evening, so it was especially discouraging when I read the story today and realized it's awful. Just awful. The first sentence contains a dangling modifier, a grammar mistake that reminds me of boogers. Boogers are gross. My story is gross. It belongs in the trash with tissues, but I'm keeping it. I don't know why.

So it seems impossible to be lastingly happy about creative attempts, but I don't think that means the pursuit should be abandoned. Because while the happiness and creative exhilaration last, it's the best kind of thrilling and doesn't end in a hangover. Right now I'm working on a play with only two characters:  a romantic couple of comedians who had always, until they decide to split up, pooled their material. Because they lived life together, they wrote jokes together, and because so many of their experiences were shared, their inspiration was similar. But then this couple has to divide their intellectual property, i.e. their jokes, into separate pools, and the jokes stop working, i.e. stop being funny, once they get deconstructed. So my plan is for the play to start off full of jokes (which is hard, because it's not like jokes are so easy to write), and by the end of the story the failure of the relationship has also entailed the end of humor. So from comedy to tragedy is the goal. It would be excellent if I could come up with a really hilarious joke as the last line, but it's impossible to laugh at because your mood is so deflated by then.

So when I have time, I'm going to keep trying. That's the moral of the stroll.

Monday, February 20, 2012


I think that trying to live without guilt would be an admirable moral project to undertake—admirable and, for me, impossible. Almost everything makes me feel guilty: dairy and egg consumption, not talking to my grandmother, talking to my grandmother, shopping, sports, swimming pools, paper cups, wilted spinach, brown bananas, booze. I have a quotation (whose source I don't know) written in a notebook that relates to and undermines my life-without-guilt ethical ideal:  "I do not respect hocus pocus morality that tells you to close your eyes and ask your 'conscience' what is right and wrong. This moral system—which most people follow—is merely an unconscious attempt to justify your own moral prejudices as moral facts, and it has lead to every kind of immorality and bigotry ever encountered." Hocus pocus? Well well well.

This morning everything seemed to be still-soggy from last night's heavy rain…everything except a certain span of sidewalk on campus that I pass over during my walk to class, which had dried underneath two pitiful, struggling worms before they could make it to the earth on either side. These worms make me so sad. I once had a biology teacher who said you could cut a worm in half and it'd survive, because every worm has five hearts, although I assume worms that have been cut in half have fewer. Suggesting that it's alright to cut a worm in half because it'll survive the sectioning seems a bit like saying it's okay to punch people because the bruises don't last forever. Worms really have it rough. There's no way to express how rough they have it. You could say, "Victims of the prison industrial complex are the worms of society," but what are worms? Worms are worms. Worms are impaled as fishing bait while they're still alive, evidently because their writhing attracts the fish, who are of course also alive when they're hooked.

Watching parched worms dying on the sidewalk is especially sad to me. It just seems like if things have to die—and they do—at least they can die where they belong. It's sad that fished fish have to die out of water. It's sad for a worm, whose home is soggy, muddy earth, to die on dry cement. So I picked the two worms up with a leaf and moved them to the wet mud, but then, a few paces later, I saw another struggling worm. This time, though, four or five students were standing nearby, and, because I was too afraid of looking cooky, I didn't relocate the worm to soil. How awful is that!

Very awful.

And maybe the hocus pocus quote is right, because as I continued to rue my moral failure a few hours after it happened, I remembered a dream I had last night:  as we were taking a family walk, Graham suddenly turned into a caterpillar, and I had to carry him on my finger at the same time that I had to carry Jeffery, who, in my dream, had an injured leg. I was all the time worried I was going to crush caterpillar-Graham, which I eventually did, under a plate with watermelon on it. (I went to bed very hungry last night, and I always go to bed thinking/worried about Graham.)

My mom remembers dreaming when she was pregnant with my sister that she left my sister in the frozen foods section of a grocery store, next to turkeys. Except when they were of bunnies and kitten and tiramisu, I remember my pregnancy dreams being terrifying.

I never enjoyed looking at Graham's three-dimensional ultrasound images. (I very much enjoyed the ultrasounds images that look how a TV channel you didn't actually have used to look before the invention of cable boxes, which make every non-channel a boring, motionless black.) Graham's facial features were discernable in the three-dimensional sonograms, which should've been cool, but the images present in a brownish-orange color, and in them he's covered in gunk—blood, I guess, but it looks like someone had tossed him into a mud puddle. Maybe I wasn't ready at that point for him to be real as those images made it feel. I had a strong impulse to wipe the mud-looking gunk from his face, but of course I couldn't, which made me feel like a faraway mother to the baby growing right there inside of me.

The night after we saw those freaky images I dreamed that I miscarried. In the dream the midwives informed that they'd have to remove the fetus' remains from my uterus, which was an easy procedure:  they simply reached in between my legs and pulled out a small piece of terra cotta, which I held in my hand and wept over. I woke up weeping.

The next morning I ate, showered, and then started to pack a lunch to take to work. I made peanut butter and graham cracker sandwiches, and the graham crackers kept crumbling under the weight of my the peanut butter-heavy knife, which frustrated me so much that I began to sob. At first I thought, Hormones. That's why you're crying. Get over it! But then I realized something alarming and obvious:  that graham crackers had the name Graham in them, and they also somewhat resemble terra cotta. It felt like my nightmare was coming back. During my cry-fest in the kitchen Jeffery had been standing by the door to the back yard, waiting for me to open it so that he could go out, and when I finally paid enough attention to notice his waiting and open the door for him, I found this sitting on the stoop.

I guess I believe in lots of different hocus pocuses, or hocus poci (and I love the movie). And I think our emotions have moral content. Or maybe I just have so many emotions that it's inevitable that some of them sometimes end up being right. Whatever "right" means. But of course maybe I saw this small terra cotta pot the day before I had my nightmare. Or maybe Jeffery is out to get me.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Culinary erotica

Is that already a thing? I could Google the word pairing and find out if the genre exists already, but I don't want my inspiration squelched.

(I don't know if squelched means what I think it means, and really, I don't even know what I think it means. What I wanted to convey when I first used the word is that I don't want my firey fantasy of founding a new erotica genre doused by reality—neither by the reality that the genre exists already nor by the reality that it doesn't exist, because its not existing would probably be the result [insofar as nothing has a cause] of no one wanting it to. But now squelched strikes me differently, in a more onomatopoeic way, as a sound that might accompany sex. Lots of words that aren't sexual sound sexual to me. Plethora, for example, seems like a word you'd see in an anatomy textbook next to an arrow pointing to a figure of female genitalia. Actually, it sounds like the bodily manifestation of an illness. The textbook might read:  "Medical practitioners have found that the removal of the plethora permits the patient to safely resume sexual activity. Recovery from plethora removal is generally swift and the risk of post-op metastasis is slim, presenting a first-world incidence of 0.8%." Sounds like the plethora might have psychosomatic origins, but that's just my initial clinical opinion.)

Here's a poem about eggs:

There are the ones that happen deep
And the ones that feel
like spreading warmth
And the ones that feel
like shrinking heat
And of course there's the one
that you eat.

Or it's about orgasms. Those are feelings I have about eggs, not facts. A dish called "Scotch eggs" consists of deep-fried eggs. Omelets make me think of spread-out warmth. And a poor or lazy cook may make overwell eggs by using a stove's high heat setting.

The truth about Scotch eggs is that they're deep-fried after being wrapped in meat, so I feel a bit guilty even bringing them up. If I were to write an erotic food story it'd have to be vegetarian, to both preserve and express my sense-of-self. Less animal ethics-oriented erotic authors could write the more meaty tales. (Aron opines that they'd all be meaty tales, but he's forgetting the lesbians, whose stories I imagine would involve mostly or completely vegan dishes, since the logic used to justify the domination of animals by humans is very similar to the logic used to justify the domination of women by men. Aron, who, because of an incident last night involving avocados, became somewhat nervous when I told him what I'm blogging about, has already titled his own erotic culinary masterpiece:  "His Cucumber Was Far from Cool.")

The idea of culinary erotica has the perhaps insurmountable defect of being way too easy. Too-obvious foods might have to be forbidden from the literature:  bananas, hot dogs, melons, pound cake, bundt cake, strawberries, anything chocolate or chocolate fondue-able. Probably all desserts should be avoided. Cliches just aren't sexy. On the other hand, I'm reading a book in one of my classes called A Visit from the Goon Squad, and so far the plot heavily involves a kleptomaniac and therapy sessions, both of which seem to be overused in film, television and literature, but somehow the book feels very original regardless. So maybe there's a way to make a banana more than a banana-penis.

Foods like mashed potatoes would be a real challenge, I think. Artichokes are clearly romantic, but do they have sex appeal? Vichyssoise is a sexy word, but is it a sexy eat? Spanakopita:  hot or not?

It might be because of the nearness of Valentine's Day that I'm thinking of such spectacularly sexy things, but I more suspect that St. Thomas Aquinas put me in the mood. I read parts of Summa Theologica aloud today, which proved to be an extremely efficient way to get Graham to fall asleep. Summa made me think of Augustine's Confessions, and then I came here, to Blogger, to blog.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Hair cares

The thing is I like shaving my legs—the act and its effect. It's a stretch to call it empowering, but it's definitely pleasant to lather the legs and pass a blade over them. And the resulting smoothness is terrific. I love to rub my own soft legs. I love for Aron to rub them. The good feelings that follow leg-shavings are as inevitable as the stubble that, soon thereafter, puts an end to the good feelings.

The other thing is that one of my goals lately has been to become a feminist. Graham is a little, little boy—only 98 days old—but eventually, he'll be a man. If I were capable of really believing it, that fact would break my heart. Babies are perfect:  they're cute; they only cry for really good reasons; they're not petty or manipulative; they smell nice; they smile. Adults don't smell nice, and sometimes they smile for mean reasons. A baby would never smile at a sexist joke. Babies only smile kindly. Men rarely cry. Women sometimes fake-cry.

What has been frustrating me most about adults lately is how enamored of a certain kind of attractiveness we are. It's so senseless and disappointing:  senseless because there doesn't seem to be any good reason why mascara should add to a woman's attractiveness (but apparently it does), and disappointing because conventional beauty includes so few and precludes so many. Graham is probably going to grow up to like the way some people look and not like the way other people look, and then this crazy thing will happen where the way a person appears to him will contribute in a major way to what he'll viscerally regard as his or her worth to him, and he probably won't even recognize that's what's happening. It just happens. I don't know how it happens. My husband is handsome. I don't know why I picked a handsome husband. I think Jennifer Connelly is crazy gorgeous. I don't know why I think that.

In my women's studies class we recently read Rose Weitz's essay, "Women and Their Hair:  Seeking Power through Resistance and Accommodation," a compelling analysis of hair politics that convinced me that my and Graham's moral health demands that I shave my head. Three fears prevent me from doing it:  1. my fear that Graham won't recognize me; 2. my fear of being mistaken for a man; 3. my fear of being unable to subsequently resist the time-consuming compensatory act of makeup application.

A woman who is conventionally beautiful in the face and has a body that is both unmistakably womanly and fit might be able to "pull off" (be pretty regardless of) a short haircut or shaved head. I wouldn't be able to pull off a shaved head; I'd wind up looking either like an ugly man or an ugly boy, so I won't do it. Because I have these fears of looking manish and hideous, if I shaved my head I would compensate by wearing earrings, makeup and skirts, none of which I do now. And that would undermine the whole point of shaving my head.

The point of shaving my head would be to eschew standards of beauty that are, like I said earlier, arbitrary and disappointing, standards that create and perpetuate professional and personal inequities. This is the sort of thing that would be difficult to definitively prove, but think about bartenders:  all the women bartenders I have ever seen qualify as hotties, and hotness never seems to be a criterion for men bartenders. Head-shaving motivation that relates to being a mommy:  I like the idea of Graham growing up with the main lady in his life having an attitude and hair style that announce that a woman's worth in no way depends on whether she is or makes efforts to be conventionally attractive.

Here's another lame thing that hairstyles that contribute to a woman's conventional beauty do:  they "reflect and sustain competition between women for men's attention, thus diminishing the potential for alliances among women." It's as if women are pressuring women to look like most other women look, and it's so fucking boring, and it's not too fair.

It's scary to think how precarious appearances make relationships. Aron told me the other day, after I shared with him these recent hair concerns of mine, that he likes the way my hair looks, to which I responded, "UHHH! YOU WOULD!" I'm certain Aron's love for me would be none diminished if I shaved my head, but I'm also close to certain that every relationship must always-already be at least somewhat about how each party regards, or initially regarded, the other's looks.

Appearance problems are so untenable because how I feel about how I look immensely influences how comfortable I am just being me. My leftover pregnancy weight makes me like being me less. Why?

The more I shave my legs and the less I shave my head the further I am from the revolution. Which revolution? Any revolution. I am close to no revolution. I wish I would've given birth at an Occupy movement. I could've had a shaved head then, and no one would've doubted that I'm a woman.