Wrestling with Appropriateness

A friend asked me an interesting question yesterday. I was
telling her that I wasn’t sure about reading some of my poetry at the reading,
wondering if it was appropriate, or what my motivations were, if it was the
right forum for it. Not wanting to titillate; not wanting to overexpose. And,
frankly, not wanting to be hella uncomfortable afterward.
She asked me if reading these poems would bring me closer to
the woman I wanted to be, or farther away from her?
I couldn’t answer her. It was a good question.
I get tired of people assuming that I’m an impervious,
white-bre(a)d suburbanite. I get tired of people assuming that I have my shit
together. Or that I haven’t been through anything hard because I am white and straight. That I am worth overlooking in the world because of stereotypes and assumptions.
So, part of the work that I do is to completely turn that on
its head and say, Here motherf*ckers, see this here scar, see this wound, see
this pain, see this triumph or redemption or trauma – now don’t you tell me that I don’t belong here, that what I
have to say isn’t valid.
Don’t you shove me off into a corner because you think that
I’m not like you. And, please, ultimately, don’t assume that you and I have
nothing in common, and moreso, please don’t assume that I don’t need you
because of an assumption that I have my shit together.
I’ve had several people tell me in recent months that
they’re actually “glad” to see that I haven’t got my shit together. That I’ve
been humanized when I share things that are actually going on.
Now, part of this is them, and their own assumptions and even selective hearing, but
part of it, too, is me, and keeping myself to myself. There is a time and a place, and the right people, to share
things with, and I know and have learned that lesson painfully when putting my trust in the wrong people. But also, people want in, and I want out. I want out
from behind the wall of, Everything is fine.
Everything is not
fine. Or at least, everything isn’t all the time.
This isn’t to say that things aren’t good or even great.
It’s just to say that I’m fucking human too, and I’d kindly ask you to stop
placing your readings and interpretations of me as “different” aside.
So that’s part of what the poetry is about. It’s to say very
clearly and succinctly that I don’t have it all together. That I’m as human as
anyone. But, too, my work goes a little, or a lot farther beyond that
sometimes, in a way that can be alienating in the opposite way.
Now you know I’m so
fucked up, or have had
so many
problems or experiences, you can’t relate to me. Now I do seem tainted or
scarred, and now you’re not sure how to relate to me, yet again. Stepping down
from a microphone at which I’ve revealed stuff about mental institutions,
incarcerations, or back-alley sex … are we now going to talk about the latest
Steve Carell movie?
Maybe. I mean, it IS
art. It’s a magnification of things. It’s deep exploration of things. It’s not
normal conversation.
But, I don’t know. I can hear my friend’s question about
whether this is bringing me closer or further from who I want to be, and I
don’t know.
I do know that I need
to write what I need to write. No matter what, it’s what I do, and what I’ll
continue to do. But. Do I need to read it in front of a group of my friends and
peers? Do I need to throw it out like a vat of squirming insides for you to see
and perhaps recoil?
And, again, do I need to throw it out there too like some
sort of membership card of artists or fucked up people? Of people who’ve
“really been there, man”?
Is it enough to know within myself that I am not a cookie
cutter white suburban flake with aspirations of account management?
Is it enough to know, that being said, that I still value and
idealize all of that suburban fantasy? That I do now see all the advantages of the place, if not the way, I was brought
There are experiences in my life which were painful. Most
people have those. I write about them, and have been writing about them with
more specificity and honesty than ever. Where is the place for that writing?
I’ve decided that I’m going to bring the work I was
intending on reading to my writing group on Thursday, and ask them their
opinions. They’ll get my hesitation, and they get my writing, however raw it
can be.
There’s something here about balance, I think, that I
haven’t quite grasped. A balance between needing and wanting to prove to you
that I’m not some porcelain doll easily managing the chaos and serenity of
life. And not throwing that information at you like a spiteful attack.
Underneath them both, I suppose, is my own desire to be seen
fully and in a whole way. My desire to allow myself to be seen fully and in a whole way, without protection that
perhaps my poised demeanor may give, and without the protection that your “back
away slowly” provides.
I’m not sure how to do that yet.
Because the reality is that I am all of it. I am both the
poised person who is articulate and brave. And I am the wounded teenager with
scars of emotional self-cutting who wants to hide or repulse.
In the end, though, I suppose, it’s largely about
self-validation. That as I begin to absorb and own the disparate parts of
myself, others will be more able to see them.
Most people who meet me at first would never imagine I were
funny. I appear too erect to be something as bawdy as funny. Nor would most
people imagine that I were walking with the shadow of a past that was insane.
But, I know I’m funny. I know I’d like to be more open about
it. I know that my past was fucked up and my ideas still need help. And I’d
like to be more open about that.
I’m not sure. I’m not sure what I’ll do with the poems I’ve
got. But whatever happens, I have a date with a mic in two weeks, and some of
myself will be spoken there. 

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