Thursday, June 26, 2008

Is George Carlin my Real Daddy?

Last weekend, John and I split a bottle of wine with my parents and, for about the 80th time, my dad—as of February a cable TV subscriber for the first time in his life—waxed on (and on and on) about his newfound love of Inside the Actor’s Studio. Punchy from the pinot noir, I peppered everyone with James Lipton’s questions.
“What sound or noise do you love?” (Yeah, yeah, children’s laughter.)
“If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?” (Surprise! You made it!)
“What’s your favorite curse word?” (Dad/Fuck, John/Shit, Me/Cocksucker.) My mom looked thoughtful and uncomfortable when she announced,
“I don’t have one. I really don’t like cursing.”
Wait, what?
“Really, Sara. Swearing is a habit of your generation. My peers, particularly girls, did not use bad words.”
I took that in and considered briefly that I had been adopted and was, in fact, the progeny of a whore and a sailor, or maybe the love child of Phyllis Diller and some well-endowed young extra from Love, American Style. Because the thing is, I adore swearing. Adore. It’s virtually impossible for me to carry on a five-minute conversation without gleefully utilizing at least one four-letter word. My staunch feminism doesn’t keep me from calling people pussies on a daily basis. During my formative years, I shared a bathroom with an ultra-cool older brother who listened to hardcore rap and kept tapes of stand-up comedians in a milk crate under his bed. When, at roughly age 10, I first heard George Carlin’s “Seven words you can never say on TV,” I scoffed. Child’s play, Georgie.
Okay, that’s an exaggeration. In fact, I remember being blown away by the first Carlin routine I heard. People actually talked like this? Growing up in Nebraska, I felt isolated from the “real America” by a divide far larger than the Missouri River. I was acutely aware that our clothing was dated and uncool, our taste in music provincial and our accent flat-affected and lacking the charm of a southern twang, the hipster cache of a Southern California surfer drawl.
To combat these deficiencies, I became a language sponge, soaking up verbiage as though my life depended on it. I copied down new words in a notebook, often stumbling when I first spoke them aloud—malapropism? Archipelago? Sanguine? Give a 4th grader a break.
I read my way through the entire young adult section of the library then moved on to Henry Miller and (ahem) V.C. Andrews before I could even write in cursive. Suddenly my eyes were opened to the tawdry sophistication of the world outside of the Beef State. Incest and blowjobs and something called the g-spot. Oh, my.
From Roddy Doyle, I learned to rely on “fuck” when I needed a smooth segue, and Jean M. Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear series taught me all I needed to know about the finer points of lovemaking (all before I’d even had my first kiss.) From my brother’s 2 Live Crew albums I developed a disturbing comfort with the word bitch. From the zines that populated my high school years, I reclaimed every word ever used to insult or diminish women. And from Carlin, Sam Kinison, and their brethren I received a priceless education—Question authority. Swear often and joyously. Fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke.
In my twenties, I was lectured—on more than one occasion—by well-meaning friends who told me I would “seem more adult and professional if I swore less.” Well, no shit. But wasn’t that the point? As we all traded our cut-offs and Chuck Taylors for Ann Taylor blouses and slacks, and shuttled off to cubicles on gorgeous summer days, weren’t we already giving up enough? I’d gone to college, and to grad school, and I paid my taxes on time and took out my nose ring—for good—when I got my first “real” job. Jesus Christ, let me retain one tiny fiber of my edgy, fuck the establishment self!
I’m pleased to report that, in the face of much adversity, I have done just that. John tells me that he knew I was the one from our first phone call, when I offered to put out in return for his technical assistance with my Powerbook. It was not the half-hearted promise of nookie that caught his attention, but rather my uninhibited use of “dirty language.” I quit the grown-up job, took a pay cut, and settled in to a new gig in an office where jeans are encouraged and I can say pretty much anything I want. I routinely drop turns of phrase that make my mom shriek with horror, and those moments give me the same thrill at 31 that they did at 13.
And so to you, George Carlin, wherever you are, I know you are not wincing as I say, with admiration and appreciation, I’m going to fucking miss you like a motherfucker. Thanks for the life lessons, you brilliant son of a bitch.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

"Beauty comes from pain" ???

holy crap.

i don't know why i'm surprised that places like this exist, but i must say, i'm shocked.

over the years, probably from age 14-20, i had sporadic anorexia fantasies. after a bad day at school, or getting turned down by a boy i liked--whatever--i'd lay in bed at night, blinking through my first bouts with insomnia, and promise myself, "tomorrow i will stop eating. i'll become anorexic and lose all this weight and that'll show them!" i know it sounds horrid, but welcome to the mind of a teenager that ranked on the popularity scale somewhere between the mathletes and that boy with the headgear who farted really loud in gym class.

of course it never happened. i possess a personality cocktail of food-loving/lack-of-willpower that would never have enabled an anorexic lifestyle. alcoholic, maybe. but that's another story.

however, let me say this. thank god the internet didn't exist when i was young, dumb and impressionable. well, i'm still dumb and impressionable, but fortunately age has given me a smidge of wisdom. because years ago, if i had access to these "pro ana" sites, i might have fallen prey to wisdom like this:

-don´t just give up every night and say "i´ll start tomorrow". it never works..
-instead start around 5 or 6 pm. then you will get hungry at night and you don´t feel it when you sleep.
-don´t wake up too early and stay busy so that u wont have time to eat breakfast. curl your hair for example.
-it´s easy to be at school because there you can´t binge. just say that you ate so much breakfast that you are still full!
-don´t go home straight from school. hang out with your friends somewhere where you can´t eat.
-then when you go home and your parents want you to eat say that you had dinner with your friend."

OR, this:

Im wanting to start the juice fast, but how long should i do it for so no one will notice i was thinking about 3 weeks. My GW is 70lbs and im currently 97 (massive i know). Do you think this will work ? Plus does anyone know what will work if you get hungry on the juice fast as i really want it to work . I really need it to work.

OR, this:

only 8 more hours till I can go to bed and finally rest
Im fasting, and feeling sooo good!
but Im just so exhausted. I want to sleep but ive got loads of hw!
I hate school.

these are high school girls, it's clear from their posts. some of them have photos of themselves, or of nicole richie, or the desperate housewives. i don't have anything else to say, except... this is really goddamn heartbreaking.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


some people who know me might say that i am about as qualified to write erotica as i am to record a song with nine inch nails, or orchestrate the launch of a space shuttle from NASA's headquarters.

i disagree.

if my MFA has given me nothing else, it has enhanced my ability to turn a phrase. and though my single life ultimately bowed down at the altar of marriage, it did leave me with a few choice memories which, all along, i knew would one day find their way into fiction. moments in time, unexpected lovers, lines of dialogue that were so good the first time around, they deserved an encore.

some of them made their way into a 5000-word erotic short story i penned last week. a friend issued the challenge and i figured, hell, it was worth a shot. amazingly, the words flowed like midori at a bachelorette party. within a few short hours i had put the finishing touches on the ravishing tale of two strangers who screwed their way around south africa. i dipped my toe into the language of taboo and emerged energized and, honestly, impressed with my ability to craft a sexy and engaging story. it had moments--a sentence here and there--that were lyrical and surprising. mainly though, it was 17 double-spaced pages of earth-shattering fucking. penthouse forum for the gen-x backpacker set.

now, i'm moving onward and upward in the world of "romantic fiction," trading graphic sexual language for the flirtations and euphemisms of the harlequin romance tradition. i've outlined a 60,000-word novel and hope to deliver it by the end of the summer. i find myself thinking of my characters all the time, excited to watch their lives unfold. this kind of writing is like candy, like reading jane austen or david sedaris. it's delightful.

i have had one mildly troubling realization. i do believe i can get past the stigma of romance writing by telling myself it's an almost meta act of hipster subterfuge. however, if i do pursue this as a money making venture--dare i say a career--i will be feeding a machine that delivers to women of all ages false expectations of love and romance. even in my short story, my characters engaged in sex with a frequency and...creativity...that few mortals could attain. but should it ever see the light of day, i can imagine a reader thinking, "hey, my boyfriend/husband/lover has never done THAT." and then denigrating into sad feelings of inadequacy or unattractiveness. little will she know that the woman behind the pen name is a size-16 nebraskan who rarely shaves her legs and has never approximated in her own life some of the acts she perpetrates upon her characters. it's fiction, baby. but it's also fantasy, it's what we want on some level, right? or these books wouldn't sell.

so that's my plan. torrid grocery store romance writing with an MFA flair. stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

there was a night when i drank too much at the black cat and ordered fried scallops--scallops!--from yum's market at 2am

visiting DC, my home from ages 22 - 28 1/2, is sort of like visiting an ex-boyfriend, except without the bad memories of drunk sex and crappy break-up mix CDs. it is an experience that forces, like it or not, lots of "what if" thoughts, a revisiting of decisions past. mainly, my decision to leave.

what if i had taken that awesome job at gallaudet university? what if ocean conservancy had offered me more money? what if someone had sat me down and said, "don't do it!" what if i still lived a 30-minute walk from naomi and nijole and dupont and pharmacy bar? what if i had realized before reserving the u-haul that my new job would give me panic attacks? that homeownership is expensive and requires cleaning of gutters 3x/year. what if i had not followed my homing instinct, or had let myself realize, in one moment of clarity, that DC had become home, and nebraska was my bedrock, the place of my childhood, but no longer... not a home, exactly.

if i stayed: i would not have left behind some of the most wonderful friends i've ever known. i would be living downtown still, with a pool on my roof deck. i would be able to participate in the post hunt, and the cherry blossom festival, and see ozomatli at the state theater and obama on the hill. i might be farther along professionally, and paid more for my work. i would have better style, and from all the walking, a smaller frame to flaunt it on. i would go out most nights, to bars and clubs and concerts and book signings. i would relish an occasional evening at home alone. i would sit next to politicians on the metro. i would live among a democratic majority. i would hear many languages spoken on the sidewalks of my neighborhood. i would see gay men freely expressing affection in public. i would ride my bike through rock creek park on sundays, admiring azaleas taller than the elephants at the national zoo.

if i stayed: i would not have met john. i would not have adopted lucy, solomon, rufus or benny. i would not see my family regularly. i would not have had time, after quitting my first job, to spend time with my grandfather in the months leading up to his death. i would not have been here to offer my own tributary to the tidal wave of support sarah received during her leukemia battle. i would not have gotten to know the craft-making, beer-drinking nebraska peeps as anything more than friends i visited twice a year. i would not have walks around the lake with my mom, or mindless movies with my dad on weekends. i would not have spent my 30th birthday in a cabin with girls and gays, ambrosia salad and martha stewart magazines and one excellent lap dog. i would not have met john.

life, i am learning (SLOWLY) is not about black and white choices. it is easy to summon melancholy for either of these paths, and likewise joy. my moods vary like the weather in this flat fucking state... they skew whimsical or bitter, depending on how my work day unfurled, how much wine i've had to drink, if john walked the dog or slept on the couch, if my friends amuse or annoy me, if i amuse or annoy my friends, who has called me and who hasn't called, what's on TV, what's in the paper, what i'm dreaming about at night, if i'm sleeping or insomniazing, if i'm medicated or organic, what's for dinner and what's on the stereo.

it's complicated.