I was so thrilled today at the grocery store to hear that I smell like a nig***.
(WARNING: Today’s entry contains sarcasm. If your irony/sarcasm detector is on the blink, don’t even bother to read further.)
Yes, in truth, a young lad informed me of this while sacking up my groceries. I believe he was more than a little tipsy or whacked-out. At the time, I’d just showered (at home) with Origins Ginger Burst shower gel, followed by the same body lotion. And Oprah did make this stuff popular by saying it was the best ever. (I am assuming that was what he smelled on me.) So perhaps this is where he gets the idea.
(If it can be said that an entire group of people smell the same, which I highly doubt. This is where the sarcasm is, folks.)
However, it’s gratifying to have confirmed what I have long suspected: that somewhere up the branches of the family tree, I have a few drops of African American blood. I knew because I’m very spiritual and emotionally so like Mahalia Jackson [grin], love watermelon, and adore most jazz . . . and I also have a Confederate soldier for a [great-great]^2 grandfather, whom we found through finding an old newspaper article in my aunt’s scrapbook (about moving a family cemetery to make way for flooding land for a reservoir.) This ancestor was most likely (gasp) a slave owner and probably had a few dalliances with the slave ladies. And of course those children were usually raised as part of the household, as would be normal, and thus became part of the bloodline. You know the drill. No matter how it happened, it’s there somewhere, and it had to make its presence known sometime.
For the record, though, on one side of the family (mother’s grandparents) I’m Irish, Dutch-English-Irish, English-Irish, and Choctaw (full-blooded). On the other side, it’s German, German, German, German. Sieg Heil.
My mother got the “Indian princess hair.” I suppose mine is somewhat luxe like that. She also has much stronger ESP and herbalism and intuition like the Choctaw nation. But I have the German-engineered brain/intellect and the Irish music (an ability to play just about any instrument I pick up, by ear, and to invent or whistle back tunes after I’ve heard them) and blarney (obvious–as you already know if you’ve been reading me long.) I do have a heavy dose of the Choctaw mysticism, love of nature/Great Spirit, and ESP/intuition and connection to the land (I never wanted to be an astronaut or space traveler, though time travel appeals.)
It’s interesting to speculate how much of this is heritage and how much is environmentally shaped. However, I do know that I have been an introvert (INTP) all my life, and Mother was always an extreme extrovert who draws her energy from other people and lives in the “now,” which made for a difficult upbringing. “Why can’t you be NORMAL . . . more like ME . . .your COUSIN is more like me than you are! I got the wrong baby at the hospital, I swan. I’m going to burn all those books and I swear I’m going to close your library card. Get outside here in the Texas heat and bask in the sun with the rest of us!” (An INTP draws recharging energy from introspection, time spent alone studying or with a few intimates nearby–but not necessarily interacting–and time spent inventing or analyzing or constructing theories out of ideas or creating; an INTP lives the inner life and may not be in the present moment, but living in a CASE statement of what-ifs.) I had to develop the inferior “F” function to some extent when I hit middle school to avoid being put into a special “shyness” program to “get rid of that unnatural bashfulness and reticence” (yes, they really believed at the time that extroversion was the ONLY normal mode, and only a few mad scientists and Boo Radleys were left alone w/o therapy.) I used acting techniques that I’d been studying to develop an alternative outgoing persona, which I called the “Melanie routine,” after a girl my friend and erstwhile boyfriend admired much from afar. She was the type who isn’t in a clique, but is “friends with everybody,” and makes you feel that you’re one of her friends, even if you’ve only just met her. Don’t know what she’s like today, but I now have a persona I can go into that’s an outgoing one. (It has grown up somewhat with me, and is thus no longer a Melanie routine so much as it’s an outgoing version of the Shalanna who would be possible if I weren’t deemed fat and unacceptable to talk to . . . and if I wanted to waste all my time on social stuff.) It’s very taxing and tiring to stay in that persona, though, and I need to eventually get home and rest, reverting to my natural b*tch self.
I therefore kind of hover between INTP and INFP on the tests (iN*tP**, for those who understand such strings), and I write fiction and memoir instead of nonfiction. (For more about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which is what I’ve been using to describe personality types, and for more about Jungian type analysis, search the Web for “Myers-Briggs” and “INTP” and you’ll probably make some useful hits. There’s a website I know of in the UK that’s pretty good, teamtechnology something or other dot UK. Sorry for not having that at hand, but I’m typing on the AlphaSmart.)
* * *
See what I meant about a blog being like a core dump, or a snapshot of what I’m thinking about at the time? (How do I know what I think until I tell you or write it down? God only knows.)
* * *
The mall was closing. I hurried toward the exit inside Penneys to meet my husband at the car. (I wanted to hide the great pair of shoes and jacket that were on sale before he got to the car. It was on SAAALE:)
The kid holding the door open rolled his eyes, glanced back at his friends, then looked at me full on and did a wolf whistle variation, the kind that goes sour at the end to let me know I’m a dog. Golllee, you mean that at ~200 lbs and 5 ft tall and with 6 ft of hair cascading around my bulk that’s clad in denim shorts and a stretch-cotton shirt and Clarks Springer clogs, I’m not the sex goddess of his dreams, “him” being an 8-yr-old Mexican kid? Seriously, folks. It was a gesture meant to hurt and intimidate a girl his age. I’ve been through so much medically/emotionally that I’m just happy to be alive and have my vision and mobility, so I didn’t grab to take offense. I just nodded at the kids and said, “‘Scuse me, guys,” and went on through. They burst into laughter as my butt retreated into the parking lot. _Gee, that fat old hag didn’t even realize we were making fun of her and laughing at her and looking down on her._ How terrible. Hmm.
What disturbs me is not that I’m ugly or make-fun-of-able (hmm, already KNOW that, thanks for playing) but that they would feel the need to entertain themselves by hurting others. I know they don’t have anything to do, and that there’s nothing in their brains that the media industry didn’t put there, so they can’t think of anything else to say. Or perhaps there’s nothing at all in those central nervous systems, which are operating on an eternal test pattern until it occurs to them to duplicate some mean trick that they’ve seen on television. It bodes ill for our society. Are they in the majority, though?
Or maybe everybody but me was mean like that to peers and those weaker than themselves when they were young. I hope not, but I suppose it could just be . . . me. Again.
* * *
“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps he hears the beat of a different drum.” (Thoreau, paraphrased.)
* * *
According to Jane magazine (and they’d never lie to me. . . would they?), some woman recently signed a legal document getting herself insurance that she’d remain attractive. Her husband wouldn’t marry her unless she got the policy. It pays off if she gets wrinkled or toothless, and she says she’ll use the money to get herself fixed back up. The criterion is that if she is judged unattractive by a panel of his fellow construction workers, it pays off.
What? Is this on the level? (Who issued that policy?) She had to get ugly insurance before he’d marry her (and she still wanted to marry him, eh?)
I wonder why she didn’t get a policy on him. Oh, of course: pre-existing condition. We also know this guy is not beautiful on the inside, either. I hate to think what’ll happen to them both in years to come, but what can you do but pray for the world?
# # #
Here’s an interesting observation.
I’ve been feeling out friendships with some editors and agents via e-mail lately, and what I’ve realized is that they are far away from me . . . mentally, at least.
For one thing, they’re two generations away from me. My younger cousins, who are in their early thirties, are far enough away from me that they flunk the “yellow 45-RPM record insert” test; they can’t imagine what that little yellow spidery thing is because they’ve never had a “record player” and certainly never used those adapters on singles so they’d fit on the changer spindle. (And if you don’t know what the heck I’m on about, you are also too young.) But my cousins are a generation closer than the twentysomethings who are now starting in publishing as assistants and as editors, and it’s kind of daunting.
Every rejection I get refers to the same stuff. They like my prose (which they feel is smooth) and characters (mostly considered appealing.) They don’t understand my stories, however. They say they don’t understand my cultural references (what–don’t they watch any old movies, haven’t they read any history, didn’t they ever hear of the Great Books program?) and they really don’t “get” my mindset as far as logic (theirs is different, if subtly different) and sleeping with people (I never did that on the first, second, third date . . . in fact, we are such old fogeys that we waited until we were married . . . not that there weren’t make-out sessions, but I’ll also admit that we didn’t know what some of the commonly done maneuvers today were, and so we didn’t go around saying “oral sex isn’t really sex” because to us, anything that involved more than kissing was really sex!) “Random is good,” one cousin assured me when I complained that the trash-TV “reality” show she insisted on watching while they were visiting us didn’t make sense, and that there wasn’t any connection to the events or the discussions. “Old stuff is all logical and shit. But that’s crap. Random is king.” Okay, so now I know.
I have written some stories that assume the “new” mindset, but they don’t go the way they’re apparently expected to go.
Regarding the younger editors, many of my assumptions not only faze them, but (apparently) actually don’t make sense. If my stories were set in the seventies, which might solve the problem, that’d make them “nostalgia” today. And not salable. >Eep< I suppose that’s a “revelation” only to me, but anyhow, I guess I write/am writing/was writing for a “universal” audience who is actually not out there so much any more. The younger set has watched TV all their lives and has been raised on MTV and believes a different set of assumptions. KnowhatImean, Vern? Not that either set should be a “default” set or that either is bad. We’re just different.
(Infinite diversity in infinite combinations–isn’t that what they teach now?)
It *(could)* just be that my work stinks. But that’s not what they’re saying. And why should they spare my feelings?
I was watching “The Philadelphia Story” and then “Holiday” last night with my dog (Mama had her TV tuned to the same programs in her room, but was dozing, and my husband was shooting aliens on his computer), not that I haven’t seen both several times, but I just enjoy the banter and the situations. And what I noticed this time, perhaps because I’ve become more aware of it lately, is that these movies depend mostly on dialogue, not sets. (There’s one set for “Philadelphia,” mostly, and three for “Holiday” that I counted–the mansion, including the playroom, the Potters’ apartment, and the steamship (which is really only one stateroom for set purposes.) In other words, the characters carry these films, not the sets. The dialogue is actually stimulus-response rather than one-liner and zinger, and the way people relate is the story. There isn’t a special effect to speak of, and if there were, it wouldn’t be the focus of the film, what everybody’s waiting for.
And modern films are *nothing* like this. Films made since, say, 1980 are very different. Not one of the “classics” as written (“Some Like It Hot,” “The Apartment,” etc., included, because when I saw them a few days ago, I noticed the long set-up time for each) could even get made today. The rejections would say, “This doesn’t have enough story. The action starts somewhere in the middle–cut out all that talk in the beginning and just SHOW where we are and imply what has happened.” Yeah, I know that’s the way some people see life and that’s what they believe sells now. (It rankled me to read a recent interview in which a youngster editor and her cronies said, “We know what sells now!” as though they are the only people on the planet who can predict such a thing–I think it was actually an editorial in Writer’s Digest telling oldfarts like me to wise up, wisenheimer–but it may be that if you don’t cater to their mindsets, you’re never going to sell.)
I don’t know whether anyone agrees with me, although judging by the photos I’ve seen from the RWA conference, many writers are my age or older (in their late thirties and early forties). So it can’t have escaped everyone that today’s sitcoms, as compared to the ones re-run from the sixties and even the seventies, don’t have setups and logical dialogue, for the most part. They’re hard for me to accept as “real” because they’re mostly one-liners zapping the other characters and sexual innuendoes and references that are delivered as if by a comic waiting for the <ba-dump CHING> of the rim shot from an offstage drummer. The situations aren’t logical at all, and apparently (from context) aren’t supposed to be considered outlandish by the viewer, for the most part. I’m not saying that the fantasy families of earlier eras were realistic (June Cleaver syndrome), but if you accepted their assumptions, their stories made sense and the dialogue furthered the plot in a natural manner. (Does anyone know what I mean, or is this just something I’m experiencing as an insight that makes no difference?)
Yep, I’m unusual in that I don’t watch current TV for escapist entertainment, but to find out what kinds of stories and characters are familiar to the viewing public. I find myself going back to the TVLand and rerun channels for actual entertainment. Those older shows are just funnier. And most of the books I enjoy are not best-sellers or blockbusters, but “quirky” and offbeat books that are midlist at best. I realize what I’m supposed to be doing is something “salable.” (If only I could really figure out what that IS. If anyone could.)
But if that’s not what you like to read, it won’t be what you write. Because you write books you’d like to read. That’s natural. Therefore, my audience is going to be smaller than the blockbuster audience in the first place. And all the advice in the world from all these agents and well-meaning editors (to the effect that my writing skills are fine, but what I write *about* doesn’t interest anyone, so I should write a blockbuster or find a genre that fits) can’t help at all. Even though in my books “I” pretend to be someone else who thinks a different way, these characters don’t act out stories that I couldn’t imagine. What comes to me is what comes to me.
Now, who reads/buys books? Some people our age and older. Others can’t afford to buy lots of books. Maybe they’re my target audience. But I’m told that the entertainment money is in the hands of the people thirty and under, and that I should remember this. I should try to appeal to them. But I can’t really relate to them in the way they want to be related to.
So I suppose this is just a long-winded way of saying, “I’m out of step, as I always have been, but this time, instead of the teachers who are older than I am saying that I’ll make it when I’m grown up, the people in charge are now younger and just shake their heads at the useless old fogey.”
There is no perfect time to write. There is only now.
–Barbara Kingsolver, _The Poisonwood Bible_