messy, lovely, flawed

image by Léoo via flickr

Today I received the third installment of my “Letters in the Mail,” this one from Marie Calloway.

It surprised me. Actually I thought it had arrived the other day when I saw my husband opening some mail and I winced thinking surely it was full of descriptions of semeny faces and the “f” word laid out for him to wonder what the hell I’ve been reading lately and who is this letter from anyway?!

I wanted to dislike her, but after reading her letter several times I simply could not. Her description of her own fragility made her familiar, especially when she said this:

“I’ve realized lately there’s no special immunity for writers, like I used to imagine there was…”

I felt saddened for her, naively and perhaps mistakenly wondering if she wished that, despite all the fame it has brought her, she hadn’t become famous in part because of that piece.

Until now she had been a character in a rather distastefully sordid play for me, dehumanized almost, but now she was, simply, a woman.

The premise of her letter was to confess an act which she deemed to be “the worst thing she’d ever done,” one which no doubt was lame but certainly wasn’t anything that millions of women haven’t done before…lies told out of desperation, out of misplaced love.

“I guess that’s why I write,” … “As a sort of apology…”

She signed her letter with her name, a circle over the “i” and a heart following. She’s so young. She writes with beauty. I wish her well.

Just when I’d quite forgotten about her, the letter on the shelf with the others, I came upon another woman’s apology.

This time from a woman whose blog I found through a series of random clicks the day before, when she wrote of both her passion for her life’s choices and how difficult it is when that passion wanes, albeit briefly.

As much as I want to believe that I am this strident renegade who doesn’t give a damn what the world thinks, it’s not true. Of course I care, everyone worth anything does. It’s destructive and beautiful, but absolutely human– our pack mentality, our sensitivity to others.

So I go along, carrying my secret work in my heart, brandishing my beliefs occasionally in public too loudly and with too much passion. Confusing well meaning relatives, alienating myself and consequently those who try to be close to me.

Her words might belong to Marie Calloway, no? What, you are wondering, might be her passion?

Well suffice it to say that she describes herself as a champion of  “radical punk housewifery,” her passions seemingly polar opposites from those of Marie, or perhaps not so…

That first post intrigued me enough to subscribe to her blog and today there was a post which also contained an apology, a disclosure, a clarification offered, for apparently her original post drew a great deal of attention. She offered as “full disclosure,” fearing that her readers “might have been accidentally led to believe I am some kind of punk goddess, rocking the home like it’s 1999,” that she had “plugged [her] kids into dvds all morning and then left them with Papa all afternoon while [she] drove [her] car to the coffee shop to write.” She continued…

I would like to say such activities are rare.

I can’t.

I’m telling you all this because– if this ruins it for you, you might as well leave now. I understand the inspiration of voyeuristic perfection, I have imbibed myself on many occasions. But there is another kind of inspiration, much more subtle and possibly longer lasting. This is the inspiration of other real people, just like you. Fucked up and wonderful, just like you. Generally confused with bright moments of epiphany. Succeeding sometimes, failing often, but keeping at it.

Two very different women, both apologizing, confessing, disclosing their flaws, and in doing so showing their humanity—strong, messy, lovely women, who are, as Calamity Jane, the delightfully radical, put it, “just like you.

I imagine what it would be like to invite the two of them over for coffee. I’d invite Catherine too since we never do sit down in person. And maybe we’d make an exception to the all girls rule and let Stephen Elliott pop in for a biscotti.

Initially I thought of making this a discussion of why women are often the one who feel it necessary to confess, to disclose, to justify and apologize. Really, though, I wish everyone would do a bit more of it, or a bit less, as the situation warrants.

The fact of the matter is I love flawed people, or those who admit to it from the heart.

Maybe I was a catholic in a previous life… 🙂


8 thoughts on “messy, lovely, flawed

  1. Beautiful post. I’ve been reading The Rumpus emails for over a week now, but haven’t yet subscribed to the letters. Why are women always apologizing? I watched a video of Elizabeth Gilbert discussing creativity, and while she was engaging and funny, I couldn’t help but notice her pattern of speaking. She seemed almost apologetic, almost embarrassed of the ways she views the creative genius… Here’s a woman who has both been critically lauded, commercially successful, even had films optioned, and yet she seems like the classic shy girl, ready to apologize for herself if you disagree with her opinion, ready to admit you might be right.

    1. Yeah, I suppose the apology thing is just part of most women’s nature, and what makes me believe that a world led by us would be far more peaceful. 🙂 I think I apologize alot too. I’m always after my teenage daughter for tossing the word “sorry” around like its free. One thing we should never be sorry for is what we feel, what we think.

  2. I loved this blog as per usual. It was beautiful as per usual. When I get a chance I’m going to send you this poem “Tits and Violin” about this very subject of being what society sees as over passionate and then apologizing as a woman.

    I want to follow this other blog. I love when people are honest with others and with themselves on their blog. Once, a year ago I wrote a blog that hurt a few people and looking back I could have taken it down but I felt it was me in the moment so I didn’t. I think it takes a strong person to both stand their ground and/or apologize.
    Now I have to read the letters blog.

    1. Is the poem one of yours? In any event I’d love to see it.

      The Letters in the Mail thingie is actually a subscription to letters which oh-so-radically actually come in the mail. You can read about it on the Rumpus’ website which I linked to. The daily emails from Stephen Elliott (which you can sign up for on their main page) are free and worth their bytes in gold.

  3. Women are forever apologizing for something they say or do. I think it is part of our nature…or maybe it is a core belief that we are capable of doing bad things. Men should have it too, but maybe they are already convinced that they can do bad things.

    I find your take on Marie Calloway’s letter interesting. I think I may have opened it with the same apprehension. I have been angry at her…maybe harshly so, forgetting that she is a young woman who realized a little too late that writers are not granted some sort of special immunity. I’m not even sure we are allowed the “Three Strikes” ruling when it comes to writing.

    That being said, as I sit here tonight writing a piece that may anger many, I try to convince myself to drop the sword. Why not do something non-confrontational like plant a tree, watch a movie, or finish a half-knit sweater…and yet, the anger bubbles. Just maybe Marie had a hidden longing to show the human condition that we seem to fall into way too often nowadays. Maybe she would have liked to have written a piece not from the perspective of a young predator luring famous men, but as a young girl looking for someone to have the balls to turn her down. Someone that would actually do the right thing and set the world straight by not succumbing to her email advances. Maybe that story wouldn’t have been as interesting, or maybe it would have been just what we need.

    1. I love, love, love your take on it, and I think she would too. You are so wise…

      Maybe you should write her. The address she included on the letter (which is not her own, but where clearly she welcomes responses) is: 229 East 29th St. 4k NY NY 10016.

      1. Thanks so much, Tracey. I am going to subscribe to the letters too. I have held off until now for whatever reason, but really wish I had a copy of Marie Calloway’s letter…at least to learn her real name!

      2. Oh, she doesn’t reveal her real name in the letter, but shhhh I can slip a copy of it to you if you’d like, or it’s probably online by now. In any event, do subscribe to the letters. I love them.

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