Los Angeles and New Haven, back and forth forever.
italicsmine replied to your quote: Add to that, I’m no longer watching television in…
Although I like men learning to be men, too.
Which is great! I sort of debated including that piece of the quote, because, you know: everyone should like what they like, and read and watch a lot of it, and of course there is use in understanding lives that are not like your own. (And, actually, one of the best things I’ve read in the last year was a lot about how to be a man: Bennett Madison’s September Girls.) It’s just that there are so many of those stories, and I have read a lot of them, and I am completely full up on them for now / so much more excited about people exploring the weird transcendent glory and destructive power of teenage girlhood.
A little less than a month ago I scratched my right cornea. The circumstances were undramatic— mostly just the confluence of Santa Anas and a baby migraine— and getting it treated almost felt like a good excuse to finally use the supercheap health insurance I’ve been paying for in case of catastrophe. This wasn’t quite that, but it wasn’t good, either. Eyes are fragile, every doctor I saw reminded me. “If this ever happens again that’s it for you and contacts,” the brusque ophthalmologist I saw told me during our follow-up. “Unless you want to go blind.”
I got my first pair of glasses when I was nine and immediately began agitating for contact lenses. It was apparent even then that I was never again going to be able to see unaided, thanks to a combination of bad genetics and a childhood dedicated to reading on moving vehicles and in low light, until my head ached and the letters swam on the page. You’d think that that kind of obsessive bookishness would have endeared me to the glasses life but I hated them: I thought I already looked nerdy enough without frames getting in the way, and I hated having to adjust and clean them, and then as now I just really hated having shit on my face every minute of the day, hated the endless nagging fear that something would happen to them and I’d be left nearly-blind and helpless, adrift in a world washed by fuzzy color.
The cornea incident, then, marked my first period as a daily glasses wearer since I graduated from elementary school. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d feared it would be: the truth is, of course, if you do something every day you learn to adjust to it pretty quickly. But I never liked it: that feeling of something mediating so insistently between me and the world, the way the day would accumulate on the lenses and blur and halo lights when I was driving at night.
The worst thing, though, was that I felt like I couldn’t see myself, and sometimes felt like others must not be able to see me, either. You do lose things in glasses: bits of peripheral vision, mostly, but also, in a funny way, your own face. To see myself in a mirror required getting so close up that there was only ever room to take in details, usually whether and how my bangs were behaving. I spent the month feeling dressed down no matter what I wore, sloppy and sleepy at all times. It’s amazing how little I believed that anyone could see me when I, quite literally, could not see myself. It was jarring to know how much I rely on a mirror to construct myself for myself every morning.
This morning I went to an optometrist who cleared me to put my contacts back in, and at first it was almost nauseating: the way the world moved when I moved, no blur at the edges, no glass muddling light, catching stray shafts and reflections. I stood and looked at my own face unmediated for the first time in weeks. It seemed very plain to me, all of a sudden. I was surprised to find that, in fact, I didn’t feel any more like myself than I ever had.
3. Last night in a writing class we read the second draft of a story that had bothered me the first time around. I’d mentioned it then— “this character is really thin,” I said. “I want her to have more to do than speak in totems and bake cupcakes and fuck the narrator.” The guy who’d written it took the criticism and agreed that he’d think about it, but last night’s revisions went headfirst in the opposite direction, and despite knowing I wasn’t going to get heard, I decided to say something about it. I got, I am not kidding you, halfway through my first sentence before both the writer and the teacher— both men, obviously— literally waved their hands at me and told me to be quiet in perfect dudely unison. It wasn’t just that he wasn’t going to take the criticism, he wasn’t even going to hear it. He was going to physically remove it from his airspace.
If you have ever met me you will be unsurprised to hear that I considered this a temporary setback, and cheerfully derailed the next ten or fifteen minutes of class to keep pressing on the point: you don’t have to care that your character is a sexist, racist cartoon— which he straight-up told me he didn’t, so— but you should care that it’s a boring, lazy stereotype which makes your writing boring and lazy and not nearly as good as it could be. Writing class is a bad place for political arguments but who even cares, because in this case it’s so easily also an artistic one: you aren’t writing, you’re just re-wrapping received ideas about how the world works. And you don’t have to take my criticism but if you don’t I’m not going to care about your work.
In college, my habit of saying things like that got me on a list of Section Assholes that was published annually in the college’s paper. Or maybe it wasn’t that, maybe I really was terrible and sucked up class air and contributed nothing to the discussion. I don’t know. I did all the reading; I shared opinions when I had them, which was often. My parents, I might have mentioned, paid $160,000 for me to be there. I wasn’t going to sit around wasting my time. This was almost five years ago now, and it still eats at me (obviously), because I do feel like I was targeted for being a smart girl who wouldn’t shut up when she had something to say. And because it’s so fucking depressing to know that at one of the fanciest, supposedly best schools in the country, a place thousands of kids dream of going, genuine curiosity and enthusiasm were publicly shamed, mocked and dismissed as assholery and entitlement. How dare I make comments in section.
Often I’ve felt bad about being so outspoken; I mean it, you know, I genuinely do not know when to shut up, and that is not my finest trait. But I’d rather be a mouthy bitch than anything else. I can work on kindness and restraint in personal relationships; in the mean time, in public, I hope I can continue to refuse to be quiet.
I contributed to this. So many people just want to pay off their student loans.
I also contributed! Though I have no student loan debt to pay off, because my parents could and did pay for an entire education’s worth of private school. I actually got into a weird pseudo-argument with S. about this once, when I said something about how I have this major fantasy of like, winning the lottery and handing my parents back the $200k they spent on my brain over the years. He thought this was really crazy and actually kind of self-serving— what, are you gonna pay them back for the food you ate and the years of health insurance and doctor’s bills, too? They had kids, they chose to raise you a certain way, you can’t ever really pay them back for it, let it go. Which is a fair point, I guess, but it also misses mine: I’d like to think that I know what it means, both financially and emotionally, that they chose to spend what they earned on me, that they believed that I was smart and driven enough to make it worthwhile. I’d like for them to know that I was paying attention, that I feel lucky; I guess really what I want is for them to feel as insanely, unbelievably lucky as I did, and do.
The Emily Books Reader for iOS 7 is out today. We think it’s the best way for people who read on iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches to buy, subscribe to, and read our books. The Reader is free to download, and if you choose to subscribe, it’s $9.99/month, $99.99/year, or $12.99 for individual books. Each issue includes the full text of that month’s pick, plus bonus features like author interviews and essays about the books. It was made by 29th Street Publishing, which also publishes mobile magazines like the Awl Weekend Companion, Maura Magazine, The Weekly Rumpus and Serious Eats Magazine,
What does this mean for you if you’re already a subscriber? It means that no matter how you read our picks now, you’ll be able to get them via the app now, too. Just download the app (free) and navigate to the “back issues” screen. There, you’ll see a cloud icon and the words “Already a subscriber?” Hit that button and enter your email address. You’re all set. (You’ll keep getting .epub or .mobi files via email, too.)
If you’re not a subscriber yet and want to receive books seamlessly each month on your iDevice, we suggest you subscribe via the app! The entirety of the bonus content we’re creating around each book is only available there. But you can still subscribe via our website if you read on a Kindle, Nook, Kobo or anything else, and we’re working on creating versions of the app for other kinds of devices, too.
Oh, and also, our September pick is MEATY by Samantha Irby! No matter which way you read it, we hope you love it as much as we do. This week we’ll be posting some of the highlights from our app exclusive content, as well as an excerpt from MEATY itself. We’re so excited to share this remarkable, filthy, amazing book with you.
plus for which the Meghan Daum back issue has an essay by yrs truly about being young and creative and having or not having money and living or not living in New York. This is obviously the most important part.
(Just kidding! Congratulations, Emily! Congratulations, Ruth! And congratulations, Nozlee, who had a hand in this and also put up some shelves this weekend because she is a genius/jack of all trades.)