28 March 2020

0 :)

0 it has come to this

today i did the jane fonda workout.

well, a jane fonda workout. because, omg, there are so many!

so i did the jane fonda exercise challenge. and i only did a portion. the arm exercises at the beginning plus approximately 15 of the subsequent 27 minutes of aerobics.

but all i could think about during the 15 minutes of the 27 minutes of the aerobics section was:

(1) how the hell did she do this whole thing with her hair down?

for real. i had to stop and put my hair up AT LEAST nineteen times, so maybe this was a smart move on her part, but also she has a lot of hair, and she gets super sweaty (idk what goes on in the 12 minutes i did not do, but apparently it really hots up), and i cannot handle sweaty hair down, not even second hand apparently.

(2) what is the likelihood that the two men she was dancing with died of AIDS?

i realize this prolly has a lot to do with who i am (in recent days, in my dear family, we have repeatedly had to make excuses for others by acknowledging "not everyone comes from a home where gary eaton has been talking about the spanish influenza since 2002.../not everyone has read and the band played on twelve times...") and what i've been reading (AND THE BAND PLAYED ON, yo!!!), but still. i'm being real. the odds would've seemed to be quite high for a choreographer in jane fonda's 1982/3 aerobics video, no?

seriously, though, i put on one of these sequin dance costumes i was really into buying last summer because i envisioned a life of god knows what, along with these sort of, i don't even know, holi-esque... in the parlance of the city thrift "ACTIVE BOTTOMS," which i somewhat inexplicably call my "space pants," though i do not think they actually feature anything even remotely lunar or constellationy, and i danced around my flat. rebelling against jane's instructions that i put on sneakers, i did my 27 minutes in bare feet.

i was surprised by her enthusiasm.

i was entirely unprepared for the memory that surfaced.

some long buried memory of being six years old in the memphis summer. and going with burvil to the christian life center at ridgeway baptist church for her aerobics class.

the place was still new. it smelled like wood and carpet. we all wore sweat suits, unironically. my six year old self and all those women i imagined were at least 90 when they were probably really only 60-65, if even.

those people, in that church, with that UH-MAZING smelling bread every wednesday night.

i find myself actively trying to forget burvil right now. which is difficult because debo is OBSESSED.

so we had a days long drama about no one calling her back about burvil. and another days long drama about getting a phone installed in burvil's room with a long enough cord that it could go on her bedside table so she would be less likely to forget about it. or put it in a drawer. and, subsequently, a days long discussion about how lovely it was to talk to burvil and how with it she seemed, how aware she was of what was going on.

i cannot bear for burvil to be aware.

i need burvil not to be aware.

the place we've put her sent us a reassuring email, the main gist of which seemed to be that, at every level of involvement with this facility, we can all expect to receive a videotaped message from their CEO.

personally, i do not fucking care about their fucking CEO. i want an assurance that burvil has been encased in impenetrable glass.

which is in direct contradiction of her need to have assistance multiple times a day, i realize. i've always been a selfish bitch when it comes to burvil, though. her being the love of my life.

a student's mother's friend's mother has died. which feels simultaneously very spaceballs and, less rationally, hella threatening.

there are 185 ventilators in memphis.

memphis has 1.4 million people.

i hate numbers. hell, i'm currently the empress of three classes in which i'm actively avoiding presenting the updated grading scheme precisely because said thing represents what i can only hope will be the most confusing math problem i ever confront.

we are talking about a lot of imaginary numbers, my friends. which i remember being one of the only elements of high school math that i enjoyed, but not today, satan.

those numbers are bad though, yeah? having seen them, I CANNOT ERASE THEM FROM MY BRAIN. there are at least 185 people in memphis that i care about.

this is why i prefer the humanities. we deal in stark truths but they are far more forgiving.

ok, so it's maybe not that i'm not writing. it's that i'm not writing what i want to, i'm writing what i have to, and i deeply, deeply resent having to contend with what i need rather than what i want.

27 March 2020

0 blurgh

i asked WRB how he's coping, and he said he's writing and reading so much. and i'm so happy for him, but also this legit sent me down a deep shame spiral.

people, i am not writing and reading so much!!!

true, true, i reread and the band played on for, like the twelfth time (as everyone always should). but, since finishing it yesterday, i have read the first twenty pages in five books.

actually, come to think of it, i guess i am reading so much, it just happen to be in the form of fitfully reading very little across a lot. that counts, right?

but i am not writing. at least not anything beyond class discussions and feedback and student emails.


last week, i responded to the university president's request for faculty input by writing an impassioned plea for P/NP options and recognition of adjuncts. half an hour later the president sent out an email offering P/NP and thanking adjuncts. as a result of this, garebear has repeatedly called me "the change-maker."


joe biden raped someone. i recognize the world is falling apart around us, but i do think joe biden's raping someone should maybe be discussed a little bit more.


the church on 16th street is no longer ringing it's bells on wednesdays and sundays at noon. or else i've missed it. i'd rather i've missed it than that they've stopped, because the sound is so lovely in all the quiet, and i'm not ready for that to go away.

0 laughter in the dark

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25 March 2020

0 stay safe! take care! this thing is happening for which we do not have the language!!!

we're all doing this, right? skirting the actuality and finding delicate ways to address what is happening, this thing we are in.

see? i just did it right there!!!

and you all know i am not chicken when it comes to death and disaster. you remember 2015. you remember that whole season of life where i brought everything back to the fact that we will one day all die.

and yet you remain, so, truly. bless you.

it's "weird times" though, yeah? euphamistically speaking, i mean.

i'm currently engaged in an active email thread with a customer service rep regarding a fedex delivery that appears to have been everywhere in DC but my home. pretty sure that, were it just one week ago, all of my messages to this person i do not know wouldn't be ending with "TAKE CARE!!!!!"

today, i had a totally normal phone conversation with my insurance provider. (what a weird time for my medicaid subsidy to come through!) after i confirmed that i understood the change being made to my policy, as we said goodbye, i realized i was actively holding back from expressing a wish that this person i do not know and their family stay safe.

for two years, i have opened all group messages to my students with the salutation "dear people." i find myself CLINGING to this. in today's class video for one of the schools, i opened with a wildly enthusiastic "hi," realized my mistake and super awkward like corrected myself, blushing at my own failure to accurately express my level of care for these people.

these are "interesting times," "unsettling times," "wild times" even, like we're at a fucking rodeo rather than a global pandemic.

i find myself consistently referring to "this moment we find ourselves in."

i think i'm attracted to the passivity of it. the moment is here and we have the misfortune of being in it. voilรก.

repeatedly, my "efforts" (by which i think they do not entirely realize they mean my providing copious emotional labor for sixty physically and academically and existentially terrorized young adults) are described as "herculean."


i file this request as someone who once taught "classical and biblical contexts of english literature," so i am uniquely qualified to state that moving a class from a brick-and-morter room to the internet amid "this new landscape of higher education" isn't a feat of physical strength so much as a sacrifice of my self to capitalism... ie. "this strange new road we did not choose but across which we must journey."

it is only in the last day that the administration of one of my schools has revealed a protocol for what we are to do should any of us fall ill or our students or our families (the other has yet to acknowledge this as a possibility). it is only in the last day that just the littlest bit more light has been let in on "this great adventure in new ways of teaching, learning and working."

this is where knowing we will all one day die really comes in handy. 

because i did not transition my class online two weeks ago. no, i did not. i transitioned us, as a group of people in varying states of crises, to a new space. a space of emotional triage, in which we are proceeding slowly, gently. our "strange new road" is one where there is no syllabus and there are no grades and we are free to write rants and write letters to celebrities and ask writers questions and write and write and write and fail and be imperfect and be sad and mad and frustrated and grieve and lonely and write and write and ask questions and wonder and write and write and write and write


i did NOT go see the cherry trees. i swear. i have been tucked up in my little home since 12 march. but they were in bloom when i was here in april 2015, at the height of my "WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE SOMEDAY" phase.

and they were beautiful.

as mayor bowser has reminded us, they will be even more beautiful next year.

take care! stay safe!!

0 seriously though

my teaching wardrobe is forever changed.

(this outfit was dedicated to lindear. this post is for kbg.)

23 March 2020

0 k.smartt has asked for silly things

quite unexpectedly, i think this has been debo's favorite thing so far:

also, are you following my journey into new frontiers of fashion and unwanted bid for youtube stardom?? obviously that's a train to nowhere that you want to be on! ๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’–

21 March 2020

0 for lack of an ending

at the end of every semester, there is this enormous wave of grief.

in my last two years of teaching, i've come to account for it and recognize it and allow for it and prepare myself, primarily with the end goal of not openly weeping in our final class.

my therapists have always been quick to point out how much i hate endings. how much i'd rather live with an open ending and a lack of closure than a proper ending that actually ends it all.

the end has, obviously, come early this year.

though, also, not really because we're all still in it for one more month, so perhaps this is actually my ending of preference? time will tell.

anyway, these 60 people are still in my life. i am still communicating with them multiple times a day, still trying to make small contribution to getting them through all this, even as i mourn the fact that we will never be in the same room again as we once were.

class, as we knew it, is over. that is, for sure, at an end.

again, such a fucking obvious and necessary reality, but nonetheless a reality that brings grief.

we are all in this and we are all experiencing our different versions of it, so i'm not trying to make out that i'm any different from anyone else. i'm know i'm not.

rather, i'm just trying to acknowledge the new contours of life.

i'm someone who films myself and close captions my videos and puts them on youtube now.


two weeks ago, i would've been like, oline, wtf. now, there's a whole work flow that's popped up around this process, to give it structure.

first, i write the copy for the "monday" class, the "teaching part," where we all are ostensibly engaged in the act of Learning New Things. (a colleague pointed out that we are in a time where everything under the sun is New Knowledge; the department head said they "hope teaching is happening" and acknowledged that "teaching happening" is the bar at which we should presently pitch our expectations.)

then i write the galvanizing message, where the pastoral care part happens and i say for the 1000th time that the syllabus is gone, grades are going soon, it's ok to feel whatever you feel, and we're all just going to write and seize whatever small pleasures we can in this moment.

then i cry.

then i field multiple emails from students worried about their grades.

then i cry again.

then, once i'm confident i can relay another galvanizing message on video without crying, i shower and wash my hair, put on make-up, get dressed, and record myself alone in my apartment talking to my 60 students. looking deep into the eyes of the camera (simulating eye contact in a way i was annoyingly never able to in skype interviews), i pretend to be my normal self and remind them the syllabus is gone, grades are going soon, it's ok to feel whatever you feel, and we're all just going to write and seize whatever small pleasures we can in this moment. and then i give them a vocabulary word for the day.

the semester is over, but not quite.

life as we knew it is over, but not quite.

there are glimmers, mercifully, to be found in it's newly warped ways.

17 March 2020

0 there are people who only know me as oline

i forget this.

then debo comes to town and we have lunch with bob and adriene and she goes on and on about caroline. and then, about an hour into lunch, bob leans forward in his chair and says, deborah, who is caroline? 

who indeed.

16 March 2020


my primary response to emotional trauma, as some of you may know, is to cut my bangs.

true story: therapy would be better. BUT (and, as pee-wee says, everybody has a big but), at-home bang cutting tis cheaper.

but also sometimes one wants to wear one's pain on one's head. and the thing about the bang-trauma is i do like the visible disruption that it creates. it really puts the emotional upheaval all right out there.

you see me. you see my hair. and you ask, OLINE, WTF HAPPENED? 

for the record, i've not done it yet. but, whew boy, i can feel it coming.

the most traumatic of my traumatic bang cuts (the most iconic, if you will) was just prior to my own personal brexit.

NOB and i went to paris in november 2017. she apparently spent the whole trip meaning to tell me my fringe was the perfect length. i came home and committed bangmurder and then had to leave the country.

you may recall.

(for the record: this was at least two weeks into re-growth)

lindear continued to love me in spite of this.

n.muh promptly forbid me from cutting my fringe again until valentine's day 2018.

seeing me on skype in mid-january 2018, jmills said OLINE, WHATTHEFUCKHAPPENED? and, when i told her it had happened two months priors, replied, OOOOOOH, I THOUGHT YOU JUST DID THAT LAST NIGHT!!! SO THEY WERE SHORTER ONCE UPON A TIME??!?! 

but it's ok, they grew back, life moved on.

yesterday, i was talking on the phone with debo, as we do every day now, and i guess she intuited where we are now.

i know this is stressful. you're not going to cut your bangs are you? she asked. you are, aren't you? 

i reassured her that i will wait, though how long remains to be seen.

UPDATE (3/17): reader, i cut them. 

0 it has been my experience

that there is no context in which this does not spark joy.

that's why it is totally going to be the "ok, stop" for my first online class next week. and that's why i figure we could maybe use a hit of it here too.

13 March 2020

0 ouch

one school has gone online for the rest of the semester and sent kids home.

the other school, which seems to be operating in drips and drabs of info, has committed to everyone sheltering in place and us being online until the 25th. which, i imagine, is a deadline to which we will not adhere.

it doesn't feel like that many kids until you realize there are 50 people you are holding in your heart, 50 people you're ambiently caring for, 19 of whom you now know you will not see in the classroom again.

i sent out a form to assess their needs. the form asked if there's anything they think i should keep in mind while planning the next few weeks.

this was one reply: Nothing really comes to mind, I just hope it’s not to stressful for you !!


09 March 2020

2 men, man

the trouble is that it is a big tangle of bullshit. it's not just the shitshow in london but, rather, it is years of bullshit. tangled together. so that there is no isolated memory. instead they all connect, they all speak to one another, each strand links to another.

i remember that we were going to blade runner, but the weinstein stuff had just started coming out the day before and, on the way to the cinema, a man in the train station stuck his hand up my skirt and ran it along my ass, and so, when we met i told him that my first time was unwanted. and he asked:

was your underwear off? 

(yes, because he fucking held me down and removed it, i did not tell him.) 

last summer, a month before he wept copiously while dumping me, a man laid back in a bed and observed:

you sure do love control.

(wouldn't you, if you'd so often had so little?) 

tell me again how big my dick is, he'd say.

(must we always talk about your fucking stupid dick? i'd wonder)

i am ashamed by how much i am relying upon the reactions of the men around me to validate my own experience.

in 2003, in an email, in the vaguest possible terms, i told donovan that my first time was unwanted. he wrote back something to the effect of:

oline, you are just like a heroine in some henry james novel!

(can i never just be myself?)

we literally never discussed this again in the nine years he had left to live.

i remind myself most days now that donovan was scared of him too. that we kept our relationship secret for SIXTEEN MONTHS because donovan was scared of this man.

i know that. i remember that. it is only through that that i am able to approach the possibility that i too might have been afraid.

my own fear is accessible only through that of a man. my fury re: this fact is limitless.

there was a night in 2004, where donovan told me someone we knew was in jail. we were on the phone and i misheard. i thought he said it was this man. or maybe i just wanted him to have said it was this man.

it was not this man.

the possibility of my having felt physically afraid remains abstract, but i do remember the tremendous sense of relief i felt upon mistakenly hearing this man was in jail. and i've a vaguer memory of how alarming it was to hear, later on, that he wasn't.

this whole memory of what happened in college was triggered by writing an email to the ex-girlfriend of the man who asked about my underwear, the king of the shitshow. in trying to help her, i wound up not only wounding myself in entirely new ways but also old.

that night we didn't see blade runner, the man in london, the king of the shitshow, briefly thought i was talking about him. i was not. but, reflecting on that now, it does seem he maybe knew it wasn't awesome that, our own first time, he hadn't offered to wear a condom.

these fucking men, man.

we've been raised to protect them. they do not even know all of the ways we bend ourselves to protect them. it comes so naturally, the bending, the breaking, lest they be made to feel uncomfortable. lest we-- our bodies, our beings-- make them uncomfortable.

and just look at their havoc. behold! truly, it is breathtaking, the wreckage.

(are you here? i keep imagining that you're here. if so, keep reading. you owe me that too.)

04 March 2020


about three weeks ago, i became aware that i'm not just playing different characters at the different universities. i'm also playing different characters in the different classes.

so thursday is three shows with three characters. which is maybe why i come home and it feels like 3 a.m. at 8:45.

with my afternoon girls, though, i have come into own. despite the fact that the morning class is the one with the piano, against which i lean like a lounge singer, i find i deliver the afternoon classes with the attitude of someone who is half a drink in.

true story: about a week ago, i objectively observed my performance in-progress and realized that i hold the dry erase marker aloft in my right hand as though it were a martini!!!

spring break is next week. as a result, as usual, this week-- the week before spring break-- has been complete and utter trash. everyone is stressed, everyone seems hostile. i produced 13,000 words of feedback in the month of february and can now barely remember my own name.

yesterday, in each class, i had to admonish them at one point because i'd look out into the sea of smiling faces and see a sea of faces looking intently at their phones and not at me.

in the first class, this was done in a vair vair bribey way. i said something along the lines of "i just read all your papers, so now you all have to look at me."

in that class, i also INEXPLICABLY, wound up recounting the story of how my handwriting is now so bad because i broke my wrist as a fifth grader due to my habit of figure skating in carpet in socked feet. (WHY DID I TELL THEM THIS?!?!?! it was truly the most vulnerable i have ever felt in a classroom, and i say that as someone who once ran through all of their material for the first day of class within the first five minutes and had to kill 45 minutes of time with a room full of judgmental 18-year-olds.)

this is what the week before spring break does to a person. i am no longer what i once was AND i have taken truth serum.

in the second class though. when i looked out into the sea of smiling faces and saw a sea of faces looking intently at their phones and not at me, i took a different tack. and i, again INEXPLICABLY (in all honesty, most everything i did in class yesterday made no sense to me), said something like, "you all need to be looking at me and not your phones, because i need to be the center of attention!!!"

which felt highly vulnerable in a different way from the socked feet story, in that it was an admission that, on some level, this is what has brought me here: i teach because i have found i weirdly love working with young writers. but, less admirably, i probably also teach because my career on the stage didn't pan out.

there is a part of me that loves the performance-- as betrayed by #adjunctfashion and the effort that goes into my costuming-- and, some days also, the person i am when i am up in front of the room. this requires a crowd and i love this particular crowd.

hence, their ability to eventually wear me down and get me to recount the story of skating in socked feet.

i said i needed to be the center of attention with what i recognize to have been approximately the same charm i would have marshaled when i more directly said LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME!!! as young oline. hands together in prayer, sort of rocking to the side on my feet, as though i couldn't bear my own adorableness and were trying to escape it whilst simultaneously projecting it across the room.

and, reader, it worked. they laughed (if i cannot fix their run-ons, at least i can give them comedy hour), and they looked at me. and i had them again.

until, like, ten minutes later, when they all started putting on their coats and digging in their bags before class was over, and i had to channel every teacher i had in middle school and be all, I DON'T KNOW WHY YOU ARE ALL ARE ACTING LIKE WE'RE FIXIN TO LEAVE BECAUSE WE ARE NOT DONE HERE!!!

we win some, we lose some.

spring break is coming!

class is cancelled for thursday!!

debo is coming to town!!!

the daffs are blooming at dupont metro!!!!

i have a home!!!!!

look at me, look at me!

0 scenes from a conversation with my father in memphis who is packing my stuff for debo to bring