Wednesday, May 06, 2009

As Tide is to Woolite

... gratitude is to gladness, feminist is to feminine, forgetfulness is to gracefulness ...

"Are you thrifty with your originality, saving it for art, or do you dispose of it in daily life?" -- Cynthia Ozick

"I thought that I too had always put people before ideas." -- Maureen Stone, "Divided Sisters" in Black Woman Walking

The trouble w/ Avery and her husband seems related to their easy acceptance of AA -- their lack of difficulty with "recovery" -- and T.'s affinity to/abhorrence of it and my steering clear of Alanon -- I'd had so much religious difficulty when I left AA myself 10 years ago.

It started in a different way last fall -- she was taunting me, basically, very succinctly -- on grounds of class, race, sex, education, geography, religion, and replies to victimization. She pretended that our African-American woman friend was her audience. She said I didn't deserve to live in NY, and in particular, Manhattan -- not that I had no right to live there (rights so begrudging) -- but that I hadn't garnered the privilege. My time in NY (and in particular, Manhattan) went back to the 80s -- I reminded her -- (but even it if it hadn't, who extends the privilege?) (She'd been born there, on Perry Street). [But she hadn't lived while on welfare w/ the Burgermeister on 10th Street.] I diagnosed her gibes as a problem timed w/ her running out of savings and the high price of her rent -- then the feathers FLEW! She faulted me for not shaving, for "settling" and picking up a few pounds to medication -- as if I were letting down "gals" everywhere. (Then she befriended a skinny girl, a radical lesbian feminist poet from the South who is not cumbersomely tall as I am.) I'd been humiliated before the institution-of-love, she said, but she was sure I would have millions one day (though not like her real friends in AA who inherited wealth). She said I was not "glad to be female" -- that my poems weren't -- her husband himself had said so. I had hoped there would be glue for it, but with the highest, brightest, lightest, tightest tu-lips realizable, service, tap, with a pierce: "I have no interest in discussing this," she said, and hit the nerve.

Her husband is a part-time painter (and architect). I hadn't psychoanalyzed his (abstract) paintings to discover how he felt about "being male." Nor brought T.'s opinions of P.'s paintings to the writing group for all to hear. It's true that as I've gotten older and lived w/ my mother for years and near T.'s illness, I've lost touch (sadly) w/ free-spiritedness I used to feel -- old age, deafness, depression, tobacco, and difficulty walking have a slower rhythm to them -- what "lingerie" doesn't convey.

Her novel is about lingerie shoplifting and I described it as chick lit. She sees it as somehow Marxist-feminine. There's no sense in the novel of danger or fear -- something I had pointed out -- of arrest, for one thing: there would be that nervous suspense; instead there's a story line that gets suspended by reveries of "sexiness" and an unspoken racial aspect, i.e., "white gals" don't "pay" -- something I had argued against in my critique -- yes, they could, would, and do. In MN they would, could, and do. In Lake Woebegone, "where all the women are strong and the men are good-looking," the "sexy good girls" get anxious, depressed, and re-diagnosed.

After TF joined the group, A. played to her w/ her unique form of radicalism. TF was our angel -- the rest of the writing group were always bursting into tears or accusation -- but TF stayed level the whole time. One of us had sued for tenure on grounds of sex-discrimination and won. A’s husband had little good to say about her, etc. The CRAZY thing is, I had invited A. to join us though she was working on a conventional novel set in Texas (a 7-yr project), and CN, a radical-progressive, Marxist-feminist, Jewish-atheist native New Yorker, who'd invited me and who'd wanted an experimental fiction group, had left ...

... as entertain is to muse.

No comments: