My enjoyment of writing began early, as I described in a previous post Pretty Girls, Phallic Symbols, and the Mysterious Human Brain. Starting with childish tributes to my mother’s beauty (almost as soon as I could write), I soon became more sophisticated. By age 11, I was regaling my friends with a novella written in daily installments. As we walked to school, they listened, wide-eyed, to a growing tale of deep mystery. It was set in London, with a lovely young heroine who had recently lost her mother. As she visited the cemetery one foggy, lonely night…
…she was attacked by a man who was lurking there. From out of the gloom he struck, and … injected a needle into her arm? From that moment on, she was … hooked on heroin and powerless to his will? He took her to America, where he … married and made a happy housewife out of her???
That was just wrong on so many levels. Do women really visit cemeteries alone on dark foggy nights? If a man plans to attack a woman, does he go to a cemetery, where almost everyone is, well, dead? (Unless he was – oh god ‒ a necrophiliac; but then why would he settle for our still-warm heroine?) People don’t become “hooked” on heroin after one injection … do they? (I had my share of youthful experimentation, but I wouldn’t know about that one.) And would a woman settle down contentedly with a man who had attacked her and made a drug addict out of her? (Pardon me while I take a bow to feminism, which thankfully imbued me with higher standards.)
(In my book in progress about food, sex and relationships, Licking the Spoon, I discuss the evolutionary reasons why young women in particular may be attracted to the ‘bad boy’- until and unless they realize the hidden potential of the ‘nice guy.’)
But at the time, I sure was popular with my more naïve friends, who knew less than I of the world of love and addiction.
Though math was another subject entirely, I was the dream student of all my English teachers. I was the one whose sentence diagrams were always correct, who read more books on summer vacation, who shyly shared my poems with them after school. I even won my high school’s Poetry Award (though it was touch-and-go between me and my friend Jim Schaffer.) And honestly, I was not a particularly good poet. Here’s a sample from one of my qualifying haiku:
Sorrow, hast thou taste?
I know thou art real.
Ew. “Thou”??? Really??? I now suspect Jim should’ve won.
Thankfully, I did get better. And I’m grateful to every one of those teachers for the encouragement they gave me. But today I wonder why no one – teachers, counselors, family – ever talked with me about going to a college with a program that would nurture my passion. Instead, and unbeknownst to me until I arrived there, I went to a college that specialized in PE. Women’s PE. With a student body made up of 5 women for every man. Future high school gym teachers.
Not to stereotype, but had I remained a lesbian, I would have had it made. But after my tenth grade love’s kisses made my insides melt, I concluded that I was probably into boys. And so, even in college and ever since, I’ve managed to find my way to them, both bad and good. Just like, little by little, I’ve found ways to the written word.
(To be continued…)