Sunday, December 26, 2010


I took a course called "The Nature of Drama" during my undergrad time at WSU, and one of the plays we read was Albee's "Zoo Story," a very fine two-character, one-act play. In it, a character named Jerry interacts, torments, cajoles the other character. I remember the discussion about this play, which is strange, because I don't remember much about my undergrad classes (or anything else, for that matter), but this discussion stuck in my head. We discussed why Jerry was driven to act as he does, and the professor said that it was because Jerry was ignored. People probably looked past him when they crossed paths with him. And that when people are ignored and marginalized, they are driven to desperation. The professor commented that the worst thing that one person can do to another is ignore him/her.

Years later, I would have to agree with this. I get ignored quite often in the course of my career. I feel my voice is barely heard. The students I teach probably have orders, instructions, and pleas shot at them all day, and they have developed the armor of apathy. I think half the time they truly don't hear me. I sometimes have to yell at them, and then they finally pay attention, but that always makes me feel wretched. But being ignored is worse. And I think women in particular get ignored more as we get older. We no longer have "high and tight" to our credit, and of course that matters most in a male-oriented, youth-obsessed culture. So as a woman ages, she becomes invisible. I would think a rare species such as myself (over 40, no husband, no issue) would command a little more attention, but because I don't have a little nucleus to command like most women, I think I get ignored more.

The worst is when I am marginalized by people who I thought cared about me. Some people probably get louder, more insistent and clamorous and become impossible to ignore, but I've never been like that. I think that when I get ignored (by people who I thought cared about me), my soul agrees. It curls up in the tiniest corner possible. It hopes that someone might notice its suffering, but it is so quiet, so silent in its corner, that no one pays any attention. And it gets smaller and smaller. Eventually it will just evaporate and leave no trace.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Filthy Lucre

I had to spend $400 on tires yesterday. I really hate this. I know it's for my safety and well-being, but....ugh. And of course I have 17 inch tires, so I only had one expensive option. Double ugh. Buying tires is one of those things that remind me that I am supposed to be a real adult. I try to avoid excursions into "scary grown-up land" but now that I've reached my 4th decade they are unavoidable. Purchasing tires and renewing tags are the least scary items; death of loved ones, especially siblings and parents, are the worst. Also things like retirement, social security, and the mysterious pain in my leg (I think it's a nerve?) that will NOT go away remind me that adulthood will only get harder, scarier, and more difficult to navigate without hitting some damn big icebergs.

I constantly fight the feeling that I am not a "real" adult. I have all the trappings of adulthood: steady job, place of residency, and a ton of responsibility. However, most of the time I feel like an actor playing an adult. I've always thought it's because I'm not married, and I don't have kids, but I guess I am not the only one who feels this way. My spiritual age has not kept pace with my physical age. I personally think I felt? was? more mature at 18 than I am at 40. That girl knew everything! This woman seems to be fairly clueless, and getting more clueless by the minute. I'd like to think that I'm just more aware now of all I don't and can't possibly know, the vastness of the world and ideas and people and cultures. Certainly as an 18-year-old my world narrowed down to school, love interest, etc. Hmmmm. Maybe my world hasn't changed much...

But of all the adult tasks, I find managing my money the most difficult. I have inherited the "I can't manage money" Fenwick gene. None of us are good with our money. I am trying much harder than I used to, because major financial setbacks made me feel like a big failure, but I still don't have the savings I would like to have, and I don't stick to budgets well. When I think of all the potential financial landmines of the future: retirement, major illness, nursing home, etc. it makes me nauseous. Also, as a single woman with no kids, I won't have the possibility of anyone looking out for me. I know marriage is no guarantee that someone will still around, but still, people who are married at least have some marginal comfort that they won't be alone in old age. For me, old age seems a wasteland, a cliff, a raging river. It's beyond scary. I always thought I would at least have my brother with me to negotiate this perilous territory, but he's gone.

I still think I am basically unformed, and that a person in her fourth decade should just be more....more everything. More opinionated, maybe, more sure. In therapy sessions, I would refer to myself as a drifter, and my therapist would correct me to "free spirit." He said that term was more positive, more choice-oriented. Maybe so. But most of the time, I think of myself as a drifter. Or a tumbleweed. And Kansas is a windy state.

Monday, December 13, 2010


Lately, I've been listening to 1970's punk. Velvet Underground(okay more 60's), New York Dolls. Violent Femmes (okay, 80's). Ramones. Clash. Sex Pistols. Anarchy! In the UK!!!! Part of me thinks this unseemly. After all, punk was for the disaffected youth. I'm probably disaffected. but I'm a grown-up. Well. Not just a grown-up, but a middle-aged grown-up (ugh, how I hate word? phrase?) So a fraction of me doesn't think punk is appropriate. But where is the rule that says rebellion is only for youth? The youth of today don't seem to want to rebel anyway; they have soma-like conditions with their Ipods, video games, cell phones that realign the satellites, etc. etc. They are comfortable with complacence. Rebellion is really for the middle-aged, when one thinks about it. I look around at my colleagues and see the smoldering embers within them. I think we all want to paper the halls, and use red spray paint, and give the finger to the security cameras, and chant at faculty meetings, and maybe blast a little Clash through the hallways. WAKE UP! The youth of today seem embalmed already, entombed in their sea of technological toys.  God knows we all want to rebel against what time does to our body and souls, but gravity is inevitable. Everything begins that slow slide down to the ground. Are there no punk songs about sagging breasts and chins, stomachs that mysteriously acquire a layer of fat that will NOT go away? What about the daily grind that chips away at the soul? "Leave my soul ALONE!" We could all drone in deadpan voices a la Lou Reed.

Well, punk is about anger and passion and expression and being loud and ballsy and not caring who knows it.

On another note, I can't get enough of The Runaways' "Cherry Bomb." Not punk, but sneery snotty girls. "Hello World, I'm your wild giiirrrl, I'm your ch-ch-ch-cherry bomb!"

And why is it I love the snottiness of The Runaways, but I want to smack the little snotty fourteen-year-old girls in my classes?

On yet another note, I saw a girl wearing a Ramones T-shirt and short plaid pleated skirt and black stockings and boots in the hall. Punk of the millenium? I had hope. I said, "Hey-ho! Let's go!" She gave me a blank look. Nope.'s definitely a sign of middle-age when one starts using the phrase "youth of today." Siiiiiiiigggggghhhh.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


My grandfather had a hummingbird feeder hanging in the big tree by the front window of the house. I could sit at the kitchen table and see them, sometimes by the dozens, dipping their beaks rapidly, wings beating ceaselessly. My grandmother would prepare the "nectar" for them; it looked like kool-aid, but I tasted it once. It wasn't. The feeders themselves had yellow plastic flowers on them with holes for the feeding. We could never take really good pictures of them--they were too fast. I tried to pick one and follow it with my eyes as it went from "flower" to "flower." Every moment seemed brief but clear, separated from all the other moments. Once a hummingbird, a ruby-throated one, hit the side of the house and met his untimely end. His small body was put on the porch rail so we could look at it throughout the day. I held his perfectly formed body, turning him this way and that, so that the sunlight hit his ruby throat. He was beautiful.

I was involved with a man who reminded me of this hummingbird (also a cat, but that's a later blog, maybe). His quickness, rapidity of thought. His movements fast and efficient. His suddeness. Each moment I spent with him seemed like a hummingbird moment: separate, suspended in time, perfect. The moments did not flow into one another like moments with a person often do, because we weren't building anything. No future. Each moment existed on itself, ephemeral, elusive. I try to re-create them in my mind, but they are like the indistinct blur of hummingbird wings. Sometimes he would be perfectly still, and I could examine him. He was beautiful.


Pomegranates are a lot of damn trouble to eat. I keep buying them. I'm starting to realize I enjoy the preparation and the destruction left behind by the dissection of the pomegranate. My kitchen is a murder scene: red spotches on the counter, the refrigerator, the microwave. The empty shell of once-whole fruit, white and sad on the counter. Sometimes I find lingering stains months later, as if the juice deliberately played hide and seek out of self-preservation, to save the last little bit of itself.

Why does Persephone refuse to stay with Hades? He must have loved her tremendously. The proof? He prepared the damn pomegranate for her. She didn't have to do a damn thing. She didn't have to cut it, or seed it, or peel away that clinging, persistent white vein that makes the seeds so bitter. He spent a lot of time making those seeds perfect for her, and then held them out in his hand, red glistening enticing jewels. And she ate just six of them. She must have had iron restraint--or a small stomach. And it couldn't have been all that bad in the underworld. It had nice parts too. Probably fairly easy to avoid Sisyphus and the guy who fed his brother his own children (can't remember name). Just glide on to the Elysian Fields. Hades must have given her a tour. He probably kept preparing pomegranates for her too, but the ungrateful miss wouldn't eat them. Hades creating carnage in the name of love.

Then again, Hades was a god. Maybe the pomegranates magically de-seeded themselves for him.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Most of my memories are indistinct and blurry. I was married for five years in my early twenties, and I remember almost none of it. This frightens me because I had a routine with this man--we must have shopped together, slept together, made the bed together. A myriad of things, routines, and love--was there love? not sure--have all been erased. And the me of the past. If I were to meet her, she would be a complete stranger. She was an unformed dough-like girl who still somehow stubbornly refused to be molded. He couldn't make biscuits of her, or croissants, or bread. All of the Amy Grant songs and required attendance at church every Sunday couldn't make her into the good wife he wanted. Who was this girl who ever thought she could do that?

If I try to review my life in my head, it's a film with great chunks edited out. Sometimes the picture goes out, and I hear just voices--what someone said, how they sounded when they said it. Sometimes I reconstruct the picture to go with the voice. "Maybe I looked like this when he said that." "Maybe I was doing this."

I reconstruct the memories for convenience, for clarity, for virtue. "No..that didn't happen that way. It happened this way." This one proves that I am good. This one proves that I am evil. And it is the same memory. The same one.

Sometimes an ex-something will say, "Do you remember?" And I usually don't. I don't remember the proposal. I don't remember his cooking that for me.

I remember a song that played. I remember feeling pieces of myself leaving me. I thought I would get them back, but I don't think I ever did.