Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ms. Sandman

Sunday, January 21, 2007, 23:49:00 CST

Dear Dr. M.,

It was women, finally. RB was my teacher in Houston. She had built a reputation as a novelist, which she cared about more than the reputation she had built as a feminist. When she was my teacher, she wrote a “blockbuster” turned into a movie starring Meryl Streep and Liam Neeson, but it wasn’t a story I cared about: a perfect white upper-middle-class family to whom one bad thing takes place and the ensuing complications -- what they lose. In reality, RB was [sophisticated and] a down-to-earth earth mama type I personally liked. She had a little shrimp of a husband who was good to her and an educator in his own right, though not a professor, an educator of high school students, and two grown daughters, who had, naturally, all made good decisions in life.

Our student group were seen as people who had almost all come from bad families. The school picked the handful of perfect cheerleaders who had grown up -- we were ten years past high school -- and promoted them to careers as poets and writers. The rest of us they duped, paid us a pittance to work 60-hour weeks and left it at that. Economics is so very important to my discussion.

We were taught, via United Church of Christ and in our early Presbyterianism (as children), that we have one life -- not many, not karma (which is from Hinduism and should not be correlated to Christianity), not afterlives, though there is an afterlife. In our tradition, afterlife was “transcendence and light” and hell was “exile from God.” "Transcendence" meant without bodies, as did "exile." Soul was elemental to worship; spirit meant harmony in the beauty and peace of nature. My religious, yet private inner interpretations were good for me as a child, not harmful. Religion becomes even more important later, since it is more likely to include rather than to exclude people, as employment excludes.

Class is an issue. Those who knew where they wanted to find themselves later had boasted -- your father was a lawyer; Leni’s was land rich; Rona would marry -- and planned accordingly. I had not boasted about all the professions that were in my extended family: my father a corporate microbiologist, teachers, farmers, dentist, chemist, photographer, woman physicist, psychiatrist, business woman, women-behind-the-men, behind the women and children, news broadcaster for Time-Life, and the others. Little financial help came from home due to my mother’s tight rein on finances.

No one encouraged me otherwise: I needed to earn a low wage to survive. You and Leni saw yourselves as the rich girls in the group and didn’t help us psychologically toward survival. Men needed us to be lower than they. The men I knew were not prospering financially, often, but were in the arts. I was not raised to “marry for money,” either, so it did not occur to me to try to do so -- I gave all of it away -- help especially -- for free and got little help in exchange. I had to file for bankruptcy. Rich men I met later wanted to be patriarchal toward me, and I was and am resistant to that, still.

If even one person had known me better: my mother, my father, you, Rona, Leni, other friends, Barry -- someone might have learned that I had wanted to major in comparative literature, not in English, and not in English THREE TIMES, but no one did know me well enough, and there were no academic advisors at any of the schools I attended except at Binghamton, and my “advisor” there was not paid to be an advisor; she just was one, my professor in Shakespeare and creative writing, since it was needed, and she realized it. That degree (M.A.) was my favorite.

These were all mistakes -- not knowing even one person who knew me was a mistake, one you had not detected, and you were likely the most astute (about the psyches of other people) of all the people I had met up to that point, perhaps still. No one taught me to pursue what I wish, what I most want. I did that in terms of sexuality, because that was taught -- to define our sexualities -- but we were not taught to define ourselves outside of sexuality and writing.

It is gay, another gay thing, that gay men have sexuality, and no one else, almost no one else, does. Women are not allowed to have their own sexuality, still; it always creates cataclysms and judgment if she does. And most men are conformists and fetishize the women’s bodies and demand that they be crafted and petite and free of body hair, heads dyed blond. Or else they are VERY mean, indeed.

It is still my sexuality, to be with a man, and I stick to it. The ex-Catholics involved with giving therapy turned that into an illness, one treatable at 12-step groups: heterosexuality. They have no message for me. Those "doctors" were supposed to be nuns and nurses, so they became high-paid “therapists” instead and converted each drive inside someone to illness, disregarding sin and traditional teachings unless it came from other world religions. I do not place you in their group as a therapist because your training was so extensive by comparison to theirs -- they really had none in us nor we in them -- but they are supposed to supervise us.

None of them knows a thing about employment. They ought to be held accountable for leaving their religion so sloppily, for insisting on a privilege system that doles out joy and families and physical comforts and appropriate work to the few, while reserving great swaths of bad life for the many. It is not something that is supposed to be able to happen to trained people -- more trained than they are -- yet it does.

2 comments:

Luis Lemus said...

Prosonomasia... looked it up in the Dictionary and it is a perfect nick or pun name, especially re: your exploration of sexuality as it apparently means "no entry found". In this 2012 apocalyptic world run by Rebullycans, where women = rape bait & poor women = welfare rapists, one must shamefully concur with your "mean" assessment of men.

Luis Lemus said...

The late great Gore Vidal wrote in relation to your three English degrees, “Those English courses are what have killed literature for the public. Books are made a duty. Imagine teaching novels! Novels used to be written simply to be read. It was assumed until recently that there was a direct connection between writer and reader. Now that essential connection is being mediated- bugged? By English departments. Well who needs the mediation? Who needs to be taught how to read a contemporary novel? Either you do or you don’t. But this business of taking the novel apart in order to show bored children how they were put together- there’s a madness to it. What symbols to look for? What does the author mean by the word “white”? I look at the notes appended to my own pieces in anthologies and know despair.”