RSS

Marilyn Manson Might Have a Cold

My New T-shirt

My New T-shirt

When Marilyn Manson got popular in the’90’s, I was in a pious, yoga obsessed vegetarian state-in truth a rather vain attempt to purge myself of a dark path. So I missed him. He wasn’t on my radar. Instead, I found him a few years ago, as a middle aged mother of two, after asking my niece about a book she was reading with a devil eyed man on the cover. I am partial to devil eyed men. It was Manson’s autobiography “The Long Hard Road Out of Hell,” and I adored it. Don’t come running to me all offended, though, if you read it. Please don’t if you can’t stomach severe, revolting excess. It is also hilarious, and in the words of a Chicago Sun Times review “Repulsive…well written and uncommonly addictive.”

What I love about Manson is his ability to expose himself, and not just on stage. He spares nothing, especially himself, in the book and I admire that level of honesty. What the book reveals is that Manson, who I think is often dismissed as just an overblown shock rocker, comes by it all legitimately. He went to an evangelical Christian school that taught him that the Beast was coming, and if you denied Christ, you would be stamped with the mark 666 and allowed to live. If you stuck by Jesus, which was the right answer, you would be decapitated in front of your family. But you would go to heaven! To a sensitive, bright little boy, this spiritual abuse was the perfect poison to turn him into an anxiety ridden mess. When his own brain kicked in, as it does for most around the age of 12 or so, he figured out that the apocalypse probably wasn’t happening and he had been brainwashed into years of pain and fear. He was mad. He eventually decided to become what he was taught to fear and a handful of years later, Marilyn Manson was born.

So last night, when he was ripping up a Bible and flinging it over the audience as he does, it would be easy to be all “Yawn, there he goes again,” but to me he’s still fighting the fight for individuality in the face of brainwashing. That’s his deal. Individual freedom. Simple, but never outdated.

I was delighted by his show. He stomped around in a pink boa, makeup smeared by the end of the night. Adorable. I want to make him a sandwich and have his babies. Every song, he changed his look. Canons spewed glitter and confetti over the masses of people of all ages screaming and holding up their devil horned fingers. He blew his nose on the front row. I think he might have a cold. I hope not. Someone actually gave him their cellphone. He screamed into it for a few seconds and then, of course tossed it deep into the bowels of the audience. Please. Did you think he was going to hand it back? It wasn’t the old days of him cutting himself up onstage. No blood. No simulated sex acts. Why would there be? He’s middle aged. I would be concerned for him if he was still doing that. Instead he sang his guts out and produced a great big fun spectacle.

The tickets were my Mother’s Day present, plus my husband bought me a t-shirt at the show and held my hand and shared a delighted grin with me when the copious gobs of phlegm shot from Mr. Manson’s lovely long nose. “Did he just….” I mouthed. My husband nodded vigorously. A perfect gift for a mother who has spent years and years of dealing with other people’s snot.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 12, 2013 in Music, Uncategorized

 

Happy Valentines Day Anyway, Love Junkie

ImagePublished in Belle 2013

As a young child, my crushes blot me out with the ferocity of my pure, relentless obsession. And the first time I fall in “love,” it almost kills me. I am eighteen years old, attending my  first semester of college, and I’m at a bar with the most powerful drug imaginable: live musicians on a stage. When I see him, a guitar player the size of a jockey, I must have him. He does not notice me the first night as I dance beneath him in jeans, no make up, my hair unbound and wild. The second night, I use my supernatural ability to discern which key unlocks a man. I appear beneath him in a tight red sweater, my hair slicked back and my lips blood red. And by the end of the night, he’s all mine, sort of.

When he takes me to his brother’s apartment after our third date, he tells me it’s because he has a roommate and this way we can be all alone. I feel very, very special. We consummate the relationship in his brother’s bed. And I soon learn that his roommate  is the lead singer of his band. He has lived with her for eight years; they’re all but married. I handle this like a broken toe. It hurts, yes, but I can still hobble around.

One night, we kick my roommate out and romp in my dorm room for hours. He calls me the next day and confesses, laughing, that he picked up a hitchhiker on the way home (to his official girlfriend) and had sex with her in the back of his van. I am so cool that I laugh with him. He is my one and only, and I will suffer any amount of pain to keep him. Oh, there is nothing like a sex addict. He excels at providing the love addict with the perfect, narcotic attention she craves while he extracts what he wants. She is like a lump of pink sparkly clay in his hands.

After two years and several operas worth of drama and pain that I mistake for love,  he’s all mine. When we move in together, the physical, emotional and sexual abuse starts. Despite the complete erosion of my soul that culminates in a nearly successful suicide attempt, I stay with him for a few more years.

When I finally break up with him, and he stops stalking me, I take up with a series of men who do not abuse me, but are nonetheless my equal in their inability to have a real relationship. I use them like a drug, and the oblivion I feel when I completely lose myself in them keeps me from confronting the spinning void inside. I need attraction, attachment and  sex like I need food, water and air. At least, I think I do. Always in my heart I keep a nest made of smoke and dreams for a perfect love who will come in like fate and make everything all right.

Valentines Day did not start with chocolates and roses. Originally, Romans celebrated the mid February Lupercalia Wolf Festival by sacrificing two male goats and a dog, using the blood to anoint the priest’s foreheads. The goat hides were used to make thongs to flagellate women, thought to promote fertility. Naturally, a pope shut this all down in 496 A.D., replacing it with St. Valentines Day. Only no one knows which St. Valentine. There were three of them, and all were beheaded.

With a history like this, Valentines Day is the perfect holiday for love addicts. A very real disorder recognized by the mental health profession, love addicts leave a trail of broken relationships, suffering and sometimes even death. It is easy for the love addict to live unidentified, forever bolstered by popular culture’s focus on romance and comforted by friends who tell her he was a jerk and the next relationship will surely give her the love that she (or he-men can be love addicts, too) deserves. Which is simply not going to happen until she’s ready to face that her problem is far deeper than picking the wrong man.  It’s nothing loads of therapy, perhaps a 12-step program and a lifetime of vigilance can’t keep in remission.

 Resources

For more information, and helpful quizzes:

sexual recovery.com

A blog about love addiction and recovery:

thelovelyaddict.com

Books:

Facing Love Addiction: Giving Yourself The Power To Change The Way You Love

By Pia Melody (HarperOne; $16.99)

A classic book by one of the original experts.

Is It Love Or Is It Addiction: The Book That Changed The Way We Think About Addiction And Intimacy

by Brenda Schaeffer (Hazelden; $15.95)

The third edition of this book contains new information about the brain and addiction.

Love Junkie: A Memoir

by Rachel Resnick (Bloomsbury USA; $14.00)

The brutal, scorching journey of one love addict and her path to recovery.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Bad Boys and Sick Girls.

Henry-20121203-00692

Published in Belle magazine, Dec. 2012

The first bad boy I love is Jeff,  a fellow kindergartner who skids across the linoleum  floor on his knees. His pants are always torn, and I talk about him to my mother all the time. She marvels at how impressed I am by the skidding.

The first time I  feel a full body bolt of longing, mysterious to me at the time, is when my second grade gym teacher lifts me up so I can grab the monkey bars. He later went to prison for murder.

My first kiss happens shortly before I turn fourteen, delivered by a boy on crutches after a drunken car wreck that killed two of his friends. He wrangles my skittish self expertly despite it all, irresistible with his punk hair and hard, amused eyes.

“It’s like a plague I have lived with all my life,” my friend Vicki says of her love of bad boys. It’s not entirely uncommon, most women having at least one experience with a man she knows she should resist and does not. But for some of us, the attraction seems to be hard wired.

The boy I love in high school is so bad I recycle him years later when he gets out of  prison for stealing a Corvette from a used car lot. He also unsuccessfully robbed a donut shop. “The gun wasn’t loaded,” he said. “And besides, I just drove the car.” His own mother wails when I tell her we’re dating again. “He’s no good,” she says. “He’s a sweet boy, but he’s no good.”

I have to drag him past my father’s big white police captain car in the driveway when we go over to have dinner with my family. A true bad boy is brave; he steels himself and goes inside. We make it through dinner, my father employing the same cold courtesy  he uses when he loads handcuffed people into the police car.

I love going to work with my father. When I come home from college on weekends, he and I blaze through alleys at impossible speeds. I watch him arrest drug dealers and even a murder suspect. I stand rapt with knees shaking against the wall of a building as my father draws his gun. Maybe the imprint of my sire, who comes home from work with finger shaped bruises on his throat, conditions me to men who love risk. Only I choose the wrong side of the coin.

My father starts running my boyfriends through the police computer. “Did you find him?” I ask. The answer is always yes. He says very little about what he finds, sometimes just one word. “Pot,” he snarls. “Did you know he used to wear  stupid little black framed glasses?” he asks once in a quiet, icy voice. But his standards are very low. He just makes sure they aren’t murderers.

I believe his approach of standing by without much commentary while his daughter makes a series of dreadful but somewhat supervised mistakes pays off. The man I marry only looks like a bad boy when I meet him. For fifteen years, every night after work he comes home and helps the children with homework and reaches for my hand at night. I was duped, thank God. If I need a fix, I can always watch an episode of “Louisiana Lock Up.”

For a short time after college, I work at a thoroughbred farm. One day, a stallion comes to the fence, jet black, blowing air at me through distended nostrils. He allows no one to stroke his thick neck or rub his muzzle, and he has no use for me. For a split second he looks at me with his cold, wild eyes before he whirls and tears off across the field. His gaze sears me, that brief attention from a dangerous creature. If he had allowed me to untangle his forelock, if he had eaten from my hand, I would  be the chosen one, the special girl who rode when others walked. The one who could have it all.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on December 3, 2012 in belle, Family

 

Sarah Wendell is One Smart Bitch and She’s Making Me Read Trashy Books

Image

For my “Private Parts” column in  the June/July issue of belle magazine, I interviewed Sarah Wendell,  author of “Everything I Know About Love, I Learned From Romance Novels,” and co-founder of the brilliant and hilarious website smartbitchestrashybooks.com. She also co authored, with friend Candy Tan, “Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches Guide to Romance Novels.

I laughed and whooped, cackled and made ridiculous approving noises  through the whole interview. Be glad you are reading and not listening.

Me: I feel guilty as a feminist when I read romance novels.

Sarah: Well, it’s a billion dollar industry built on the narrative creativity of women for women. In my opinion, that can not escape being feminist. There are some sexual tropes  and emphasis on things like ubermasculinity and clueless virginity and those things still reappear and they are very much hetero sexist and can seem a little in conflict with the idea that the genre is feminist, but for every book where there is a super huge male with giant man boobs and abdominal muscles that go on for six miles and a mullet, there’s also a hero who doesn’t fit that type. And for every woman who can’t find her clitoris with a map and a flashlight, there are women who are very sexually forthright.

Me: (I bray with laughter, just like a donkey)

Sarah: Now, in the history of the genre, if you look at what is considered a romance novel right now, that began in the early ’70s with “The Flame and the Flower.” If you think about the 70’s, that was a period of great sexual ambivalence. It was not then, and to a large extent now, acceptable for a woman to openly have horny-pants.

It’s still not. If you look at the Republican efforts to curtail birth control, access to abortion and eventually our right to have an orgasm, it is still very greatly frowned upon for a woman to say “I would like to have sex with that guy because sex is great, he’s hot and let’s do this.” That’s not okay for a woman to express openly, in a lot of ways. So when the genre began in the early 70’s, there were scenes that romance readers now find quite distasteful and troublesome. There were a lot of forced seductions, a lot of moving the heroine from the keeping of a father or guardian into the keeping of a hero, and he would initiate her into sexual activity, often unwillingly. And unfortunately that’s where the genre gets a lot of its bad reputation.

That does not happen as much in romance anymore. Those romances are still important and fit into my idea that romance is a feminist genre because at that time there was so much ambivalence about female sexuality that readers frankly probably were not comfortable with a woman who said “hot damn, he’s hot, I want to chase him down a dark alley and bone him.” That wasn’t going to be expressed in the ’70’s.

And the ambivalence about female sexuality was expressed in the books of those times. And you move forward and you have a very, very wide range of sexual content in romance. You have romance that is explicit and erotic and involves two men or two women or a guy and two girls or a girl and two guys or a whole polyamorous collective of people who live together in gravity defying erotic bliss. And you also have romances that feature some really sexy hand holding, and that’s about it. There’s Amish romance, erotic romance, polyandrous, romance between people who have already been married and are trying to figure out how to care for each other.

Me: Wow. (At this point, I can think of nothing more to say, because I am marveling over this woman’s brain, and how everything that comes out of her mouth is some kind of rapid fire complete sentence, with great content.)

Sarah: Does that help, at all?

Me: Oh my God. You’re making me so happy.

Sarah:  (laughs) Good. You’d be surprised about how much crap readers of romance take for the fact that they read romance. There’s a misconception about romance that they’re read by stupid women. Not true. That the women who read them are desperate and unhappy. I am very happy. I only have three cats, not eighty six. I don’t spend my days in a puppy sweatshirt and a fanny pack finding romance novels are my only source of happiness.  The most pervasive misunderstanding of romance novels is that it’s all about sex. It’s about courtship. Romances are about establishing a courtship and finding a happily ever after through obstacles.

Me: So you see them almost as an evolution of feminism?

Sarah: Yes. I think you can look at the overall history of the romance novel and  the motifs  and  the sexuality present in all of them and see that they match up with the major events in feminism. I think of romance novels as sort of a popular culture anthropology of women. If you want to see how the role and sexuality of women has changed, you have to look at the novels women are reading and writing to understand how women see themselves and each other.  Any woman who is writing down the narrative of women fictional or real is committing a feminist act. If you look at the established literary canons, it’s a bunch of white guys.

When my first book came out, we were on the radio on NPR’s “All Things Considered”  Weekend edition because the producer was a reader of the website, so they brought us on and the host of the show kept saying “I don’t read those books. I have never read those books. I don’t read those romance novels.”

After the show, the producer came out and told the host she thought she should read one, now, so give us some recommendations. She picked up one. Two months later I got an email saying “I don’t know if you remember me, but I was the host of NPR’s All Things Considered who had never read one of these books? You were right, I loved it. Can I please have more recommendations?”

If I can convert an NPR radio host, who are self appointed bastions of culture and high brow discussion, it shows that the genre has something to offer almost everybody.

(The book is “Bet Me” by Jennifer Crusie)

Then, Sarah and I try her game. I tell her the name of a book I like, and she gives me a romance novel that she thinks I’ll like.

Me: I really like  “The Road,”  by Cormac McCarthy,

Sarah: Hmmmm….I haven’t read it. What are the things you liked about it?

Me: Oh, apocalyptic, end of the world hopelessness, with a tiny thread of love and survival.

Sarah: Emotional bleakness is something you  can find a lot of in romance, especially if you like tortured heroes who suffer from great emotional damage.

Me: Oh my God, my very favorite thing in the entire world!! Yes!

Sarah:  Read Anna Campell. She has emotionally tortured men her novels. They all have to get over themselves in wrenching ways.  Sherry Thomas also writes emotional torture. Also,  Meredith Duran. She writes very smart people in historical situations.

If you like the dominance of the male hero, there’s also novels that explore BDSM sexuality. The “Natural Law” hero is detective who goes into the BDSM community. The twist is that he’s the submissive. In general,  it’s very liberating to read about your own sexuality in different ways.

Me: It’s liberating to accept all facets of yourself and just enjoy it.

Sarah: And if you like the fantasy of being dominated, that is okay. And if you like being the one who is doing the dominating, that’s also okay. There’s a tendency for women to shame themselves or one another for sexuality they find unacceptable. If you aren’t hurting anybody, and everybody is consensual and legal, go on with your bad self. Whatever turns you on, fine. It’s not my business, or anybody’s, to tell you what you should do with your own horny-pants.

Also, there are not very accurate or fair portrayals of female sexuality in pop culture. Women who are portrayed sexually are airbrushed into a far distant representation of reality. And female sexuality is almost always portrayed from a male gaze. If you look at the recent super bowl commercials, how many women in bikinis could there be in a three hour sports broadcast? It had to set a record. Every now and then you get David Beckham in his underwear, but that’s about it. This is even though nearly half of the NFL fans are women. The representation of female sexuality is almost always through the male gaze, saying this is every man’s fantasy, when it’s not and almost always painted with a narrow caricature of male sexuality. But I think that women have it worse because it is okay for a dude to say ‘wow, that totally turned me on’ and it’s not okay for a woman to say that publicly in a lot of ways.

Me: No, I mean, I have sort of just barreled through my life with a sort of ‘ah, screw you  I’ll be who I want and like what I want’ in sort of a rebellious way. But inside, if I tell the absolute truth, I have been judging myself, and I haven’t been honest about any of it.

Sarah:  But I think every woman does this. I know I  castigate myself for thinking things I feel I shouldn’t think. I think women are infiltrated with archaic, old fashioned ideas as long as they are exposed to popular culture. Sometimes romance embraces those things, and sometimes romance subverts the hell out of them. But one of the most reassuring things I’ve found about romance novels is that no matter what your sexuality is, no matter what interests you, you are not alone in that and there is probably a novel that represents a piece of you.

Me: And that is beautiful.

Sarah: These are stories where the female always wins. This is her story, she wins. When you think about literary history, when characters had sex out of wedlock, The wages of sex were always disease, death ,shame, humiliation. In a romance, you are ultimately rewarded for that sexual curiosity. And the experience of sexuality, is never the reason why the heroine is given an unhappy ending. Because there are no unhappy endings.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Mark Lanegan, Old Shoe Leather, Smoke and Sadness

Image

I’m not doing well. I saw Mark Lanegan at the 9:30 Club in D.C. Friday night. It’s all I can think about, now. I am used to living as an obsessive, immature person, but this too much. I wore my concert t-shirt all day yesterday and I must wear it again today, so it’s in the wash right now. I have never let my children wear the same thing for days in a row, and I can’t understand why I’m letting myself do so.

My friend Sarah sent me a CD of his music some years ago, and I was instantly, completely in Lanegan’s thrall. For me, his music is a direct line to the furious creative force suspended in every moment, an amalgam of suffering and joy, like roses blooming in a forgotten garden or a broken winged archangel surrendering to an ancient demon. Lovely things to a dark heart like mine. If I am happy, Lanegan’s music makes me happier. If I am hurting, he transmutes the pain into something I can work with. I’m his bitch, in other words.

I have been to many concerts. I saw all of my idols when I lived in San Francisco in the early 90’s-Nirvana, Soundgarden, Beck. Eddie Vedder sweated on my sister and I at the Warfield, we were so close. But the problem was that all of this happened in my drinking days. And while I thought I had a marvelous time, and kind of did, it wasn’t about the music as soon as I got a drop of booze in me. It was about getting more booze.

So when I walked into the club on Friday night stone cold sober and saw the musician who means the most to me in this world, it about killed me. I was gobsmacked. He’s tall and lean, and simply stood holding the mike stand, singing with his eyes closed almost the entire show. He creates a storm with his voice, his tight, hurricane force band right behind him. I’ve read numerous complaints about how he does not interact with the fans. Excuse me, but the man is blowing his guts and entire soul into his voice. You want him to smile and talk, too?

After the show, Mark courteously signed autographs. I stood in line practically shaking. I could not believe I was going to interact with him. I clutched my t-shirt and waited. The t-shirt is the most perfect ever: black, of course, a soft, fine preshrunk cotton. His name in a pale, creamy green, with the blowsy pink rose brocade from the cover of the  Blues Funeral album outlining a skull. It’s so pretty. And Chris bought the second to last one for me. He also went up to take a peek at him and reported back, “Oh my God he is intense. Really intense.”

My turn came. He was hunched over at the table with a baseball cap on backwards, his face suprisingly fine boned in person. I shook the massive, tattooed hand. His eyes will haunt me forever, a fragile rare tundra of world weary pain. I wanted to take him to  quiet, safe room and make him a sandwich. A man who writes of magnolias blooming and his own brokeness is someone I want to feed and protect.

“How are you,” he politely asked.

“Fine, now that I’ve met you,” I said. “Could you please sign this “Sarah, you are a whore?” I asked him. Now, see, I thought I was being hilarious, but apparently this was all old hat to Mark. He simply asked how she spelled her name.  “I owe her, ” I explained. ” She turned me on to your music.” Later, on facebook, Sarah asked me how he smelled. She postulated he smelled of old shoe leather, smoke and sadness. I wish I could have found out.

When I had my autograph, I said, “Thank you, so much, for your music, man.” The unthinkable happened. He smiled at me as I walked away. Chris said it was like it was against his will, and it was a smile like a broken bicycle with a bent frame, only moving part of his face. I’d like to think it was because I reached him with my hearfelt thanks, seriously coming from the deepest part of me. But maybe he was just thinking to himself, “Dork.”

 
4 Comments

Posted by on May 13, 2012 in Music, Uncategorized

 

Jillian Lauren: former harem girl, mother, writer and smoking hot person

Jillian Lauren is the author of the memoir “Some Girls: My Life in a Harem,” and the new novel “Pretty,” a brutal and lovely tale of a young woman’s struggle to stay clean and sober in a halfway house in the underbelly of L.A.  I was terribly excited to talk to her. Sex work? Addiction? Beautiful honest writing? Oh, I couldn’t wait. But wait I had to . We took turns messing up Pacific Standard time versus Eastern Standard time, which really made me know she is my kind of girl. At last, we talked.

Me: It was so interesting to read the reviews of “Pretty” on Amazon….people saying “This wasn’t a pretty read…this was depressing”….and I felt like the book was very hopeful.

Jillian: Me too! I try not to read the Amazon reviews. Of course I’ll scan them once in awhile. People are coming to that with a lot of expectations of how they want a book to be. Of how they want a book to entertain them, or what they want to get from it. And I’m writing from a specific point of view that doesn’t always jibe with what people want. Maybe they are mislead from the title…maybe looking for lighter fare than what I have to offer.

Me: You seem to be kind of stepping outside the prescribed genres. Which is what I loved about your books. I found that people also had some preconceived notions about what being in a harem should be like.

Jillian: Yes, people were very surprised. People picked it up because of the cover and thought it would be a titillating sort of trashy airport read and found it was very different.  But I like that my work is surprising people.

Me: Oh, absolutely. I really think you are very brave in both books. For me, it was very emotional to read them because I really identified with the addict mind in “Pretty” and the dissociated state in “Some Girls.” I know as a writer who has written about my own life how difficult and painful it can be to write about that stuff. Did you find it to be that way? How did you get through that?

Jillian: I did find it really painful. My general view of that is that it’s supposed to be painful. I don’t think it’s supposed to be easy to write things that are this raw. If I’m not willing to sit down and cry when I’m writing, how can I expect that my readers are going to sit down and feel things when they read? I think that in order to make something worthwhile, there is going to be some suffering involved. I’m willing.

Me: I sort of came into writing believing it was supposed to be cathartic to write it all out, and I didn’t necessarily experience it that way. I felt what you are talking about-I put myself back in that state-and that is not fun and not cathartic. But what have you found about it that is worthwhile?

Jillian: I would agree with you. I am not of the school that thinks that writing is cathartic. But what I found was that by putting my own frame around these events, these questions and these themes, it put me in meaningful dialogue with these things that might otherwise be overwhelming or incredibly depressing for me. And that has been useful. And honestly itself has been useful to me. And so it’s not so much a process of catharsis as it is a process of finding my own meaning to my narrative.

The fictional narrative is still a truthful narrative. Everything is just sort of in a different costume. To be able to sort of take control of my own narrative has been powerful for me. I don’t think writing is therapy. I had to go to therapy because of some of the things I wrote about. But it is transformative.

Me: I think you’re on to something here. That idea of reframing your own life. Your books were very healing for me because I realized that when I first started writing about my life, I was coming at it from kind of a victim way. Technically speaking, sure, I was a victim. But my perspective now is very different. As in, that was the way my life unfolded, and it taught me these things. On a good day, I wouldn’t trade any of it.

And I also recognize younger self in both your memoir and your fiction- the young girl who is actually very curious, open to new experiences and brave. There was a fierceness in me as a young woman that isn’t served by a victim story. I walked into some of those bad stories. I walked into the woods and met the wolves head on. Some of that is because I had already been damaged, and some of that is because I was a wild ass. I felt like you were framing things that way, also.

Jillian: Yes. It was important to me to come from the perspective of not being a victim. Although technically, you could say there were ways in which I was victimized as a child. But I think it’s very important for me to take responsibility for the choices I made, both good and bad. It’s good to acknowledge the links to events in my past, but not to present myself as a victim of those events, because I don’t think that’s the truth. And I also don’t think that it’s a very interesting way to look at my life or the world, for me.

Me: I agree. I really think that you broke some good ground in the way that you are not apologetic in the way that maybe some people think you should be.

Jillian: I think that most of the criticism that I got about my memoir was exactly that-that I should be ashamed of myself, that I should be more apologetic. I should be taking a more moralistic stance otherwise  I must still be an opportunistic prostitute if I’m not cowering in shame about the whole thing. And I thought that perhaps the most valuable thing I have to offer in my memoir was to present it without shame. Because I hope that I can encourage other women to honor their own stories, as imperfect and flawed as they may be.

Me: That is so powerful. I feel like as women for us to honor the difficult parts of our stories and not just chalk it all up to being damaged is one of the best things we can do.

Jillian: I get emails telling me that every day. I think it’s true…it’s empowering for other people and it’s empowering for me to look back on that part of my life and say yes, I’m saddened by some of the choices that I made and there were aspect of my decision making and boundaries that did come from damage in my childhood but I also was bold and fearless and adventurous and romantic. I was always a performer. Things that I like and admire about myself when I look back on myself as a young woman. And those things also played an equal role in the decisions I made. So I’m not interested in attributing my choices to just to bad circumstances.

Me: And doesn’t doing that just put women back in old molds? It sets us back. It’s like we can only have these experiences and be accepted if we are victims. It’s not the whole story.

Jillian: The whole story is complicated. There are shades of gray. That was another thing that I was interested in portraying-the complexity of it . It’s not just an A plus B equals C situation. There’s a myriad of factors.

Me: It was moving to me how you walked through all that. You dealt with being a sex worker and also you ended up having some feelings for the prince.

Jillian: Yes, and that’s a gray area that people have a hard time understanding. That as far as I understood love at that time, I would have told you that I was in love with him. Yet I had walked into that situation as basically a prostitute. That I could hold those two things at the same time is hard for some people to digest. So I wrote a book about it…to look at the complex aspects of the situation that aren’t easy are the most interesting to me.

Me: Oh, me too! And I’m so relieved and delighted and happy and expanded when I read writers who do that.

Jillian: I love when writers do that too. I hope in some small measure I was successful in that.

Me: How do you reconcile being a mother with the material you write and how is it for you being a mother and having a career?

Jillian: It’s a new kind of hard that I’ve never experienced before. I deal with material that is sexual and all these things that are unacceptable things for a mother to talk about or a mother to admit and yet, here I am and I’m a mother.My son is three and a half. He has yet to encounter my work and people’s reactions to it. I just hope that one day I’ll be able to tell him that there is value in honesty. And that even when, and especially when we have made mistakes, that there’s value in sharing these things with the world. It’s what I do, and I hope he’s able to love me for it. I imagine that he’ll probably go through a lot of different feelings and a lot of different stages  around it. And I’m just hoping that our communication stays good enough that we are able to process them.

I just think that if I wrote things that are always appropriate for my kids and my parents to read that I could maybe write for the Disney channel, but that’s not the kind of work I do. I have to do the work I am compelled to do. And the people in my life get to have their reactions to that. As for being a mom and balancing it with a career, I don’t have any solutions or answers. I just try to be kind to myself for doing none of it perfectly. I just take it one day at a time.

Me: Did you have a lot of fall out after you wrote “Some Girls?”

Jillian: I did. I had a lot of fall out. But there was less of a backlash than I expected. But mostly I have to say I was surprised by how supportive and encouraging people were. But there were reactions by my family that were disappointing. Not entirely unexpected, but disappointing.

Me: I always have people in my writing classes ask how to handle writing about the difficult things in your life and about the fall out.

Jillian: People ask me the same thing all the time. I don’t think there’s a perfect answer. For me, it was important enough to write this material honestly and fully. I was willing for people to have their reactions. You have to allow people to have their reactions. You can’t prescribe what those are going to be. You can hope. I’d hoped my parents would be able to be supportive of me. Ultimately, they haven’t been. I think they’ll come around eventually. I think that it’s not worth it to deal with this sort of material in a half assed way, like I’m going to share this, but not this. Or protect this person or my relationship with that person. I think you have to just do it in the most relentlessly authentic and honest way that you can or write a different kind of book. I had to write it this way. Nobody would believe “Some Girls” if it were fiction.

Me: People were so annoyed by the boredom factor in that book. It made me mad. People, this is not a dirty Cinderella movie! This is what really happened to her. Aren’t you incredibly interested to find out that being in a harem is boring? I am.

Jillian: I think that’s one of the most fascinating things about it. I hope I wrote about it in a way that wasn’t boring.

Me: No, your boredom was riveting.

Jillian: Why, thank you. That’s one of my favorite things that anyone has ever said about it.

Shortly after that, Jillian had to go. And I was sad. I wanted to talk to her forever.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 15, 2012 in books

 

Being late, lost, overdrawn and unable to count change

Published in Belle magazine, Dec. 2011

I am, once again, in Commerce City. Although I have lived all of my 27 years in Denver, Colorado, whenever I need to go downtown I somehow get sucked into this labyrinth of  smokestacks and industrial buildings surrounded by ponds of thick steel colored water. It doesn’t matter where I am going. This is where I end up.

     In my purse is a checkbook, teetering, unbalanced, with checks ricocheting all over town. I sincerely try to balance it, but the numbers are slippery and never add up the same way twice. According to my watch, I am already late for my appointment. Which comes as a terrible shock because last I knew, I had an ample block of time that seems to have simply dissolved.

     I need to go north and I pull over to take a look at the mountains, which are always west. This I know. As I look at the mountains, I grope around for which way might be north. A wheel spins in my head, and even my hands, which I try to use like a needle on a compass, refuse to stay left or right. They’re just hands. One of them might be a little dominant.

      That night, at my job as a retail manager in a clothing shop in the mall, I struggle when a customer demands I count out her change instead of what I normally get away with, which is dumping whatever the register suggests into the waiting hand with a nice big smile.

    “Okay, it was $52.82 and you gave me $60.00? So, uh….” I hide my fingers  underneath the register to do some counting. “Three cents brings us to .85 cents and then you get this dime and….hmmmm.”  The customer walks away with her change, eventually, and  a tight lipped what-is-this-country-coming-to look on her face.

     So many people tried to help me throughout my life. My father sat with me night after night with flashcards, trying to drill basic addition into my little head. My math teacher in seventh grade was a kind man, passionate about his job. He spent extra time bent over my desk explaining concepts to me, his eyes igniting when I finally understood something. But at night, while I slept, all gains made during the day were simply wiped away. Every day was a brand new day.  A brand new “I Love Lucy” clown day.

      Many years passed, and I eventually learned to cope.  Now, instead of trying to think when I hit one of the boggy spots in my mind, I go limp. I breathe through rising panic and if I’m driving, now in a Richmond still brand new to me after eight years, I turn right when I am one hundred percent certain I should turn left. Right is wrong when dealing with my brain. I know that I will step out of a store in the mall and go the wrong direction.  I will also lose my car and spend too much money.  I don’t let it bother me.

     Finally, a few months ago, I learned the term for exactly what is wrong with me. Dyscalculia is a learning disorder that includes difficulties with math, money, time, directions, dance step sequences, and mistaken recollection of names.

     Now I know why I head for the bathroom when it’s time to do the Electric Slide at weddings and why I call a good friend’s daughter Sophie, when her name is Sadie, every damn time since she was born four years ago.

    The world of math, supposedly concrete and infallible, is slippery to me. What is real are words and the images my mind connects into endless, effortless stories, unfettered by time, space, money and numbers. It’s not so bad, as long as you aren’t married to me.   

    

 

 
2 Comments

Posted by on December 2, 2011 in belle, Uncategorized

 
 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.