They were just an abandoned pair of Crocs that blended in with the landscape such that I nearly didn’t see them.
Immediately, I started to tell myself the story of the person who used to wear those shoes, how they got there, why there was a ponytail holder just next to them. The brownness of the scene struck me as sad and serene. And when the picture (that I took with my phone) came out so well, I wanted to share it with you, and to offer you this prompt:
In 500 words or fewer, tell me the story of those shoes. Do it in the comments. I’ll repost the really good ones on my blog next week with credit to you, and a link to your blog/social media/whatever; and if you share your email address, I’ll send you a free critique.
An Exciting New Thing
I want to invite you to Writer’s Boot Camp.
It’ll be a mind-bending day of all different sorts of writing activities. You’ll push your comfort zones, engage in all manner of writing activities and exercises like Weight Training, Gimmie Twenty Words, Gimmie Twenty Sentences, Cross Country Writing, and of course there’ll be a groovy, mind-massaging lunch break. Show up at 10, leave at 4 with a refreshed or revolutionized sense of yourself as a writer, of writing as a creative act, and some new ideas for getting motivated beyond Boot Camp.
You need a clip board, a few pens or pencils, a notebook or paper (at least 20 sheets), and a brown bag lunch or $5 to chip in on pizza.
The cost is low, $55, and you can pay the day of or via paypal, you’ll get instructions by email when you register.
The spot is Gallery #13 at The Pajama Factory, 1307 Park Ave. Williamsport. I’m teaming up with Susquehanna Life Magazine on this effort.
Child turned 7 and became a whole new person with a sophisticated set of social know-how, a dazzling sense of humor, and the attitude of a 13-year-old girl.
So, before getting in my face and saying, aggressively, “Mommy, I want to go with Lydia!” in this clenched-teeth voice that was legitimately almost frightening, we had this conversation:
“Mommy, I think I know who’s going to win the coloring contest.”
“Oh yeah? Who?”
“Nuh-uh,” shaking her head with earnestness, “but it’s not going to be Connor, either.”
Her voice got low and conspiratorial, “MaKenzie.”
Then she snapped out if it and said, “Anyways, I just think she’s going to win.”
Every other day it’s, “I don’t wanna be friends with Monique anymore. She’s mean.”
and “I want to be friends with Monique, I forgive her.”
Or out of the blue, she’ll look at me with big, dewey eyes and say, “Mommy, I just really miss BombBomb and JuJuBee.” (man I wish we really had friends who named their kids BombBomb and JuJuBee).
I remember changing my mind about who my friends were, but not till middle school.
Child wouldn’t be conned into having a “chapter book” read to her little by little for anything. But suddenly she’s thrilled to receive Bunnicula a little at a time (and I’m thrilled to read it).
She asked me to buy her a coloring book this morning. This is a child who has had dozens of coloring books purchased for her by every breathing person in her life, and has never a single time agreed to color with me. Just now, she is coloring the second picture of the day, including a love note to grandma and pop pop.
Yesterday, she changed her list of favorite colors from (no joke, I just confirmed with her) pink purple red orange yellow blue black white, to pink purple black white. This new list is lightly revised from two days ago when it was “I’m thinking about changing my favorite colors to pink black white.”
All this to say that interacting with a seven-year-old is often like interacting with a bipolar cartoon character.
Please note the careful choice of pronoun. I have never met a woman who is so enamored of delivering a bitter pill of haute vulgarisation to a poor, plebeian other.
I never met a woman who cradled her mons pubis while delivering her last word. Who took such small-minded, bureaucratic joy in lording her position, her talents, her intellect.
Certainly such women exist, I am not saying that this is a uniquely male problem, I assert that it is a predominately male problem, that having the last word must be like the joy of release from orgasm, or from finding the perfect thing to complete a project, or giving an enthusiastically received gift.
It is, in our culture, a birthright. Men pronounce. Women do.
So especially, He, when you are wrong, or when you encounter an other who is your intellectual equal, or equal in position, or perhaps simply arrogant, confident, or some other thing that only you and your kind are supposed to own, you come down with what shall henceforth be known as LastWorditis.
You do not approach the world with calm, open, curiousness. You approach the world ready to hit it with something or penetrate it with something else. You are so convinced, assured, cemented in your rightness that you will not step back for a moment and experience empathy.
You do not know how. You never had to learn.
So you blast on, having rarely been called on to reconsider your rightness, or to think about it as a thing to earn with a quality of fact other than your penis. You do not think about who and what lay charred in your blast force wake.
And He, I must say that it is exhausting to do business with you. It often makes me hate you.
I am not hateful. I love people. I want to see the good in you, to enjoy working with you, to collaborate, to plan and do, to create things that aren’t babies together. We can do that, you know. All that needs to happen is for us to respect each other, and for you to remember that I am not for penetrating in literal or metaphorical terms.
Seeing the good or trying hard has landed me on the receiving end of LastWorditis. Often, I have replied with calm, reasonable, kind words only to be shouted back on myself. To react by doubting myself, to strive to see myself as you do so that I may understand your point of view and work within it, or fix myself, or understand why it is you see me that way. Because for me, being in the work world is not a given; it is a stroke of luck, a blessing of education and circumstances and doggedness.
And He, it was not until recently that I pledged to trust myself. If it looks like a rat and smells like one, then it is, no matter what other un-ratlike qualities the rat may possess. If a rat calls me a rat, I do not have to listen. I am not a rat, and I know this about myself.
But there are lots of other not-rats who do believe you when you sneeze LastWord all over them. That is why I am writing this letter. To ask you to stop. To give my fellow not-rats the ability to draw their own conclusions, and to give you the freedom of not knowing. Not knowing is a joyful, liberating thing.
I may be physically weaker than you, and without the cultural-social gift of a penis, but I am still able to look at myself, to locate areas of opportunity, to see the ways in which I have been complicit in your LastWorditis. But it feels truer. And I’ve come to greater realizations without you, He, in my head.
Did you see the 30 Rock episode in which Liz Lemon gets Jack Donaghy in her head, and he tells her to break up with her boyfriend which she does not want to do, but does, then un-breaks up with him? Despite the slapstick, that was a complex, layered metaphor for gender relations in modern society.
Take a lesson from Donaghy. He should’ve trusted Lemon.
You’re not helping. It is not important to have the last word. I know plenty of hes who do not need the last word, who are capable of collaboration, of admitting fault–occasionally–who value my mind and my ability to contribute. If you’re a He, and you’re in my life now, this is probably true, or mostly true, of you.
But He, believe me when I tell you that I am finished nursing LastWorditis, and when you get LastWord, it’s because I simply do not care that you have it, because I am confident, arrogant, or some other thing that only you are supposed to be; not because you’re right.