29 July 2016

0 america in the UK

the plan was initially to sleep peacefully last night and then wake up and read about hillary this morning.

then i remembered that, in 2011, k.clen and i woke up pre-dawn to watch the royal wedding. a circumstance significantly less important and a realization that revealed my priorities to be all out of wack.

and so i set my alarm.

for what would have been two hours after HRC's speech, because- after 3 1/2 years of living in the UK- i inexplicably chose now to forget how to calculate time differences and figured out the difference between 4 a.m. UK time and 10 a.m. EST rather than the difference between 10 p.m. EST and morning in the UK.

both of which would have been wrong anyway as i actually needed to wake up at 3 a.m. which i did, automatically, so disaster was averted. history was seen. i am not someone who prioritizes weddings over milestones for women. huzzah.

25 July 2016

0 on "i'm totally interested in this" face

i was struck, in watching HRC's joint interview with kaine, that kaine has totally mastered "i'm totally interested in this" face.

croftie and i used to talk about this all of the time in maph. about how attuned we were to what our faces were doing as we sat listening in class. it is a face i have subsequently honed in countless panels and public performances.

it is the face you make when someone else has the floor. but it is also a face you make casually, in the audience at a lecture, in a class, in listening to someone.

not someone you care about or are in a relationship in or have known since you were twelve. i'm not that fake. no, this is a face for certain professional situations. (though maybe also really bad dates?)

and the thing about "i'm totally interested in this face" is that it is closely related to "i've noooooooooo idea what you're banging on about face."

the possibility exists that "i'm totally interested in this face" is, in fact, entirely masking "i've noooooooooo idea what you're banging on about face." this, i find, is often the case.

i do not think it a coincidence that croftie and i were always discussing this in relation to academia. for i think it might be something central to academia.

in my former corporate life, i never once had to perform "i'm totally interested in this face." i don't even remember being concerned about the emotional incontinence of my face in that life. one could sit in endless, ill organized meetings and roll one's eyes at co-workers and all would be well.

but academia is all about a mutual affectation that we are all equally intelligent and have read the same books and know all the same words. it is a distinctly unsafe space in which to admit one does not know everything. there is shame attached to not knowing.

which seems ludicrous given this is a learning environment.

on some level, however, i knew this in grad school a decade ago. why it startles me now, i'm not so sure.

the idea that there are no stupid questions is a cliche i repeat to an alarming degree and one which i'm not sure actually opens up the floor for further questions. but given how often i have to google the definition of "discursive," i'm guessing there are maybe a lot of gaps in our knowledge we're not admitting. given how many times we all pretend to have read books we've not, our ignorance must be infinite.

what would happen if i let "i'm totally interested in this face" totally go and just featured "i've noooooooooo idea what you're banging on about face" as needed instead?

would it have any effect? would people stop speaking in jargon and actually say what they mean? would they think i was a moron? would they know i was american?

there was a moment during the week-long summer school devoted to a particular modernist writer when, after encouraging the students to ask questions and evoking the no stupid questions cliche, i modeled this. when people made casual allusions to texts i was pretty sure 90% of the room had not read and 65% had never heard of and i could feel the young minds around me cowering in shame, i asked for a one sentence description of the text that had been mentioned.

throughout the entire rest of the week, no student ever asked for a clarification like this, but doing it provided a moment of clarity. the realization that this could all be so.much.better if we felt comfortable enough in learning to do this and stopped nodding along and pretending we know it all.

21 July 2016

0 hold it

garebear and i are talking and he says, hang on while i get my second cup of coffee. 

and i hear him walking down the stairs, flop flipping on each step. hear the cat howling for food. hear the clink as the coffee pot slips back onto its burner. hear him walking up the stairs, easing into his computer chair with a sigh of satisfaction.

a full three minutes have passed.

i'm back, he says.

you know we're not on skype, right? i ask. we're on the phone. you could've taken me with you. 

and there's a slight pause before he, obviously flummoxed, replies, why i didn't even think of that. 

17 July 2016

0 debo does it again

i’ve written before about how debo is essential. and about how, when i was in grief therapy and the guy who’s mother had died kept going on about how it had unhinged his writing process because his mother was so integral to it, i thought OH NO, because debo is so integral to mine. 

and because, in all of their concern about estate management and cremation and the feeding tube and making my life as easy as possible after their deaths, my parents have never once made allowances for how their deaths might derail my ability to write. 

in a family that allows for everything, this seems a glaring oversight. 

debo and garebear were in nashville for her pre-birthday. they’ve developed this obsession with exhibitions on vintage cars. (do not ask me. i do not know.) 

nashville, evidently, is the one place their cell reception is worse than it is in their home, so i’d not spoken to debo for days and when debo returned, she’d much to tell me. so it was a solid hour before i could interrupt and ask, may i please bang on about my corrections for awhile so you can say something that will jar something that will get me going again? 

and, ever patient, she said, yes, yes. and out came a torrent of words and debo’s aforementioned quote about learning from pain and also something possibly profoundly helpful as i continue wrestling with this nonsense about the public sphere and private lives and biography and women’s lib.

and i’m struck by how easy this is. i am also struck by the fact that, in this conversation, i’ve somehow accidentally convinced debo that jackie was a horrible mother, suggesting i perhaps need to work on my talking points. 

0 as it turns out

the lasting legacy of my father's sex girlfriend continues to be that i no longer wish my mother happy birthday on the day my father's ex-girlfriend was born.

16 July 2016

15 July 2016

0 logged on

thanks to a colleague's earlier instance that,  if we were going to be of administrative use to a week-long summer school devoted to a particular modernist writer, we should be given teaching roles and her subsequent catastrophic back injury, i have bumbled alone into a position of being the hip, young face of scholarship in this particular modernist writer. and also the representative of a database in whose creation i was entirely uninvolved and which, prior to two weeks ago, i had never once used.

this is not unlike how i bumbled into being the biographer most known for social media because of that one time i was quoted in a newsletter explaining how to log in to facebook. a quote that landed me the chair of a committee, a place on a panel, and a position on the board of directors.

apparently, in certain communities, by virtue of being the one who knows how to do these things, it is possible to become The Representative of the thing. which, in turn, perpetuates things like standing up in front of a room of scholars of this particular modernist writer and teaching them to log on to a database. like dominos, one leads to another.

inexplicably, my career has forked. so that there is jackie on the one path and teaching people how to log on to things on the other.

my rise to prominence in the world of this particular modernist writer has been swift. my feelings are mixed. even garebear, who loves me dearly and is generally convinced i am capable of all things, when i was telling him of the success of monday's session, couldn't help but ask: now, why did they get YOU to do this?

the simple answer is, i think, because we asked. and so there is now a line on my CV attributable to the fact that someone said yes, and because i have experience in teaching- in a fresh, interactive, innovative, compelling way- people to log on.

12 July 2016

0 friendship and hiddleswift

since 26 june, i have been texting k.lo links to articles on the blossoming love of tom hiddleston and taylor swift.

and since i began doing this, i've given it little to no critical thought.

because this is the friendship k.lo and i have cultivated in the last ten years.

it is a testament to the trust involved in that friendship that i expected no reply. that i interpreted the lack of reply as permission to continue sending these links, and that, receiving no reply, i continued to do so.

i also, i realize now, took for granted that she was reading every single one. 

i now know i assumed this because, in our conversation- in a moment heralded by a pause and a declaration of OHMYGOD K.LO, my peppering you with links on the quotidian details of these people's lives is about to enable me to say what i'm about to say- i told k.lo, you could really see it in those photos from when they had the italian dinner on sunday night. 

the ritual goes like this... (1) click on the link to an article about hiddleswift, (2) text the link to k.lo, (3) screenshot the ridiculous headline for the blog post i imagine i will write about this all later when i finally have the time/energy to historicize it alongside The Summer of TomKat, and finally, (4) laugh/read thru the article.

when i tell her about my process, k.lo is dazzled to find that i send the articles to her before reading them. 

her dazzlement forces me to think critically about this behavior for the first time all month. and it begs the question of how much of my interest in the unfolding saga of hiddleswift is about her involvement in it with me. the fact that the link goes to her first. 

before i have read the story, already she is a part of it too. i have implicated her. 

i'm trying to think of a historical parallel for what this is. gossip, obviously. but gossip is never just gossip.

i rather wonder if, much as k.lo's control of my love life last winter (TRANCE MUSIC IS THE SALT AND PEPPER OF MY LIFE!!) made us communicate more frequently and regularly than we had in years, the ongoing saga of hiddleswift is providing a similar touchstone.

except this is waaaaaaay more passive. the gossip equivalent of "hi."

it's not like we're discoursing at length about hiddleswift. i am forwarding links. she is reading them. once a fortnight or so, if there's time after we've caught up on each other's lives, we'll pivot to hiddleswift and evoke some obscure detail from their going out to dinner on sunday night.

i've clearly not been bombarding her with links for a month specifically to have a conversation about hiddleswift's italian meal. but it is a building up of shared knowledge over time. it's using gossip to stay in touch, to create a shared experience with someone i've not seen in two and a half years. and it's a way of signaling to k.lo that she is on my mind. (though maybe she wishes less so.)

just after moving to london, i attended a lecture about people in the english colonies and how, after leaving their families and moving far away, they were desperate for the arrival of the mails. and the disconnect between their enthusiasm and longing for news, and the casualness of the responses their letters received from back home. WRITE SOON! they wrote. repeatedly. and months later, a reply- always lamentably brief- would arrive.

when you are away, there is this tug from afar. you are not there, you maybe don't even want to be, but the tug persists nonetheless and there's this impulse to reach out, to make contact, to touch. this is why, when my mum comes to london, she is obsessed with taking pictures on my father's behalf and talking to everyone back home. she feels far away. in being here, she is reminded that she is not there and so she repeatedly makes contact in an effort to lessen the discomfiture of that.

that discomfiture does not entirely go away when one moves abroad. at least it hasn't for me. it lessens, but lingers. one feels simultaneously at home and also liminal. neither here nor there.

and i do wonder if that's what this is.

when i wake up in the morning, america is asleep. inundating k.lo with early-morning texts about hiddleswift is perhaps a way of subduing that early morning loneliness.

or... perhaps that's bunk and i'm just a gossipy bitch, determined to drag her down with me. 

11 July 2016

0 4thing

the thing about the 4th abroad is that it isn't thanksgiving. which, well, thank god because thanksgiving abroad is awful.

N and i discuss this as we flit from whole foods to m&s to tesco in search of something to make chipwiches with, before we settle on a rather more european than we would have liked on this american day lemon tart.

the 4th is a friend holiday while thanksgiving is family. that is what we conclude. it is what explains the difference in how, in our british lives, the 4th feels like a proper holiday while thanksgiving feels like the dog of your childhood just died.

N and i have spent the last two thanksgivings together. this past one, at lunch at the diner, over plates heaped high with foods containing american levels of multiple kinds of cheese, we confessed to having both independently spent the morning contemplating our only child status and the threat of forced returns to america due to parental death.

food-wise, this was a step above the year before that, when we took a ten-minute break from working to meet multiple untenable deadlines and sat in the library cafeteria eating pumpkin pie out of tupperware with plastic cutlery.

every year, debo tells me next year i should go to some town in denmark i can never remember the name of for the big 4th of july celebration they continue to have there because they once had a lot of americans.

and i ask her, incredulous because we've now had this conversation four times, why would i leave london for the 4th?

the 4th is easy peasy. it's thanksgiving that's the bitch.

08 July 2016

0 pip

i've been working at AD's flat, prepping the workshop we're leading next week and coping with the ongoing efforts of our overlords to thwart the impending awesome.

in the midst of this, my obsession with her cat is absolutely full on...

clearly, he's just as sick of "english poets as letter writers" as we are.

05 July 2016

0 risk

i'm thinking maybe garebear and debo could've done a wee bit better in the name department...


ohmygod, GAMBLE!!

faith gamble eaton. 

you'd read that girl's memoir, no? 

03 July 2016

2 we are family

we're lying in bed and have just turned the lights off when STZ says, breathless with excitement, garebear is even more amazing than i imagined.

we're in memphis. and it sounds not as though she has met a real person but experienced a transformative magical event.

it was a comment of the sort one makes upon eating The Falafel in paris or going to versailles. except, in this case, we were talking about my dad.

and i was reminded of that one time croftie came with me to memphis and of how watching her watching my family was like watching a kid see a beloved book come alive.

again and again, something would happen about which she had already read (and maybe not quite believed), and she would turn to me, wide-eyed in amazement, and it would remain unspoken, what she was feeling, but i knew. she was realizing that what she had read was true.

we are this weird. and, alternatively, this awesome.

there was a time when this was extremely disconcerting to my parents. during the visit with croftie, my mum, noting croftie's loaded glances, would then turn to me with a raised brow.

i couldn't tell if she felt observed or exposed or sort of narratively surveilled. but she was aware that her behavior excited a strange response in croftie, that croftie knew more about her than she maybe should, and that, for this, i was somehow to blame.

in the intervening years, my parents have read much of what i've written about them. they are privy to what i have done to them and they approve.

more than any of the other writing i have done, the silly stories i have written about my family have convinced my parents that i really am a writer. accordingly, it seems i am now given carte blanche.  

when my people met in memphis last month, there were exclamations galore amongst them about how wonderful it was to be meeting my "characters."

it was, in some ways, like a whole convention of my characters and, this time, my parents didn't bat a lash. it is no longer an oddity to them that the minutiae of their eccentricities have been publicized. it has become, instead, a source of pride.

but, actually, i don't think STZ's response to garebear had anything to do with this. over dinner the other night, she reiterated how much she enjoyed meeting garebear and i was reminded that there was this moment in memphis, where garebear was holding court with people in the kitchen and i and assorted girlfriends were out on the porch.

in bed that night, when STZ said garebear was better than she'd imagined, she also told me what he had told them when they were all in the kitchen. about how he'd said that, really, we don't know what life holds and there's no one way anyone's life should have to look because we are all different and we all want different things from the one life we have and so we should feel a great sense of liberty and embrace that and explore different things and be bold and have adventures and not worry what everyone else thinks.

STZ said she found that terribly reassuring, hearing my father say this.

i told her that it was hilarious because it is the line i have been feeding him for years.

when i saw her in london, STZ reiterated that garebear was better than she imagined. and this time i saw how much her feelings towards him have to do with that moment in the kitchen and what, in that moment, he represents: a father who listens to his daughter and, accordingly, eventually, expands his sense of what is possible for her.

for this is what we restless daughters really, really need: to be believed.