Survivor’s guilt

4+ years ago, I finished my creative writing MFA. For many days since, until maybe hopefully recently, I have struggled with guilt.

Since graduating, I entered a career that lets me talk about writing (which I like) and editing (which I love) with hundreds of people I would otherwise never have met from all across five continents. I get to share what I find interesting with roomfuls of (generally) open and willing humans. And I have struggled with guilt.

I’ve worked as an editor on fiction and non-fiction publications. I’ve sold book reviews and sports features. A half-dozen websites have “hired” me to write for them, and some of them even pay (poorly). I have been able to spend much of the past few years writing about sports that I care about, and even to spend most of that focus on the teams I care about and root for. And I have struggled with guilt.

15 years ago, after finishing my undergrad program, I narrowed down my career pursuits to three: law school, American studies, or writing. I got into law school and an AMS PhD program, which meant I might make a good amount of $$ down the road, or at least pay nothing while advancing my education and getting on track for a university job while incurring less student debt. Nope. I love writing and thinking about writing and talking about writing and writing about writing. So off I went.

The year I started the MFA, I’d contracted a bacterial lung infection. Continue reading

The Time An Elderly Woman Faceplanted

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One cold day around Christmas, visiting my family upstate, I was leaving a supermarket and had just reached the car when I turned my head and saw an elderly couple. The man was putting groceries in the trunk of his car. The woman was laying face-first on the pavement, not moving. The man turned, saw this, and started screaming.

“Help! Help! Please, somebody! Help!”

A group of people rushed over. I reached the woman first. She was so small, that doll-like frame you only see on the very young and very old. I wondered whether moving her was a bad idea; you always hear you’re not supposed to move people who are hurt. But it was freezing and she was seventysomething, laying facedown on pavement. It seemed a cruelty not to at least turn her over so she could see and speak.

She was balsa-soft, like flipping a feather. The sea green-blue of her eyes popped against the overcast sky. She looked very surprised and looked like she was chewing. There was blood pooling in the inside corner of her eye and a large cut from her cheek up to her temple; later, when the EMTs lifted her up for the ambulance, we could all see the gruesome damage to the back of her skull. Much worse than I’d imagined.

One woman held her hand and prayed the whole time till the EMTs arrived. It was raining. A supermarket manager walkie-talkied inside, asking for an umbrella to be brought out. He held it over her.

“I don’t suppose I’ll drown,” she said.

 

 

Either I’ll Never Be Famous Or I’ll Be A Megalomaniac.

In the best of times, my job demands make getting any of my own writing done – for the Knicks; for book reviews; for my own fiction – a challenge. A week and a half of constant headaches has left me with, literally, 200+ essays/short papers to get through ASAP. This is not the best of times.

One of the guys who writes at the same Knicks site I do is now writing for Sports Illustrated. This leads me to wonder – is the amount of time I devote to teaching preventing a potential writing career from taking off? Or, having found work I enjoy and show some aptitude for, should that remain my betrothed, with the writing a lifelong mistress?

In the great BBC Steven Moffat series Coupling, there’s a scene when two friends, Steve and Patrick, are trying to convince a third friend, Jeff,  who’s just started dating a woman, that relationships are never as fun long-term as they are in the beginning. Jeff rebuts them, pointing out that Julia, his new girlfriend, loves to wear exciting, tiny underwear and lingerie. A frustrated Steve tells Jeff, “There are 3 things all men should know, and it’s time you did too. You’re never going to be famous, you’re fatter than you think you are, and, most important of all, [women] don’t keep wearing stockings.” Continue reading

Online dating: yea or nay?

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Another online dating shift has come and gone and again I’m left with nothing but questions and unclaimable expenses. Should I continue, or quit? Have I been barking up the wrong digital tree? Or is real life the best place to search for love/like/lust? Is there a third option I’m missing? Is love only apparent once you stop looking?

I’ve worked quite a bit with OK Cupid, meeting everything from selfish lawyers to arrogant atheists to flaky single moms to overrun single moms to girls who just want a text buddy or a phone friend. One lady was super cool, and smart, and sexy, and then she concluded she isn’t ready for dating right now. She phrased it like she’s not ready to date anyone right now, but when you’re the one getting dropped it does tend to feel personal.
I’m not sure about OK Cupid anymore, not after reading if you use the site but aren’t a paying member, your chats and personal info are not encrypted with HTTPS protection. I can deal with being rejected or passed over by strangers…but not by third-party strangers having access to my rejection.

Continue reading

How/How Not To Act When The Victim of A Sex Crime Comes Out To You

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Statistics say 20% of women and 5% of men are sexually abused as children, which would mean 30 million women and about 8 million men in the U.S. are victims…so odds are you or someone you know have dated someone who was abused. As someone with two decades of experience coming out to partners about the complexities abuse adds to one’s sex life, I can report there is a lot of ignorance in terms of knowing what is or isn’t an acceptable response. I offer the following one-question quiz in the hopes someone somewhere learns something from it.

(Note: all the answers listed are things people have actually said or done. I wish they were jokes. They’re not. They’re all real.)

(I’ll give you a hint. A through G = incorrect answers. H = correct.)

Q: You’re about to get intimate with your partner when they tell you they were the victim of sexual violence in the past. This is the first time they’ve mentioned it & it’s obvious it’s difficult for them to do so. How should you respond?

A) Tell them you don’t believe them because you don’t want to.

B) Make a joke about molesting kids.

C) Say you’re not really good at “being there for people” and steer the conversation toward yourself.

D) Top their story with your own shocking tale of abuse.

E) Abruptly change the subject, because sex crimes that happen to a gender you don’t identify with don’t matter.

F) Excitedly tell your partner their being molested is “a blessing in disguise” because you’ve wondered if your own child’s ever been abused, and now you have your own “expert” to quiz on what signs to look for.

G) Act supportive while you’re in the same room as your partner, then as soon as you leave spend the following days/weeks slowly and silently drifting away, wordlessly, until it’s obvious they’re never going to hear back from you.

H) Listen. Hug them. Tell them you understand, even if you don’t, and that you’re comfortable working with them on what they need to be comfortable too. Be patient. Then enjoy the perks of intimacy with someone who’s spent their life killing themselves to find it.

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Everything on Earth ==> men hitting on women (poorly)

bumper cars    The other night I was leaving the gym. It was late and I must have been more tired than I realized, because as I was backing my lil’ Cobalt out of its parking spot I somehow failed to notice a pickup truck the size of an aircraft carrier about 10 feet behind me until I heard a crunch.

Because I was raised by better people than me, I did the right thing and left a note on the truck’s windshield with my number. Said if the driver needed any info or had any damage to call me (it looked fine to me, but it was dark and I was tired and hungry and not entirely committed to giving his grill an exhaustive close-up).

The next morning, we had the following text exchange: Continue reading

Farewell, fiction?

I give up, writing. I think.

The first story I wrote was in 1989, when I was 11, after an earthquake interrupted the World Series. It was a short story about humans discovering two warring nations beneath the surface of the Earth – one benevolent and friendly, the other violent and obsessed with power.
The last story I had published was seven months ago: a sultan in an ancient Muslim paradise must decide which of his three sons should succeed him. Two of the sons, the twins, are fools; the third son is born of a slave girl and never speaks. The father gives them a test, a magical bird. Whoever gains the most with it will gain the throne.
The last story I wrote? I don’t remember.

Many of my friends are successful/aspiring writers. Sometimes that’s cool. Writers are weirdos. They’re grown-ass adults who voluntarily spend much of their lifespan alone, obsessing about the world of make-believe. Company helps. Ever seen a mental patient on the street versus one in a psych ward? Company helps. Sometimes knowing so many writers blows. Because just like when you were in elementary school and always comparing your height to your peers, as an adult writer you end up comparing your life to the people you know who chose to be the same lonely make-believe weirdo you chose to be. Yet comparing yourself to another writer is a fool’s errand, since it’s impossible to ever really know how any other human being is ever really doing, much less one who excels at storytelling. Writers excel at manipulating reality and spinning believable falsehoods. Writers are basically taking selfies 24/7, only selfies of places that don’t exist. People who take selfies look like they’re seizing the day, but stopping life to freeze a frieze of it’s not carpe diem. It’s carpe cellulaire.

pope Continue reading

The Joys of Adjuncting

A journalism student from one of the colleges I teach at interviewed me and some other adjunct professors about a month ago about adjuncting. End result? I only got one line in the story, and of COURSE it’s the one where I equated my gig at a second college to “running a meth lab.” But the one and only photo for the article has a nice clear shot of my bald-ass head.

*slow clap

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