I tend to go very hard for the people and things I love, and I think the single most attractive thing someone can do is go hard for me too.
Newsrooms are set up like mazes.
It is an endless series of desks and television screens, and everywhere you turn is another white man. You are meant to be the intern who gets lost and can’t find the elevators, or at least I am. Looking out across the third floor, I see only receding hairlines, white foreheads, and bushy eyebrows. Somewhere in that I am supposed to find an editor with a name like Bob or Jennifer. Locating my new desk—amid the clacking of keyboards and droning of television news—becomes my accomplishment that first week. It doesn’t take long, though, to see that I am missing a crucial asset: a talent for talking to white men. I have a good deal of experience with white women. I learned their mannerisms right alongside lessons in English, algebra, and chemistry. If I count my entire schooling starting with kindergarten, that is nineteen years of studying white women. It is easy, then, to now make small talk with them. I nod sympathetically about children, inquire about their favorite movies, commiserate about the morning commute.
But white men are different.
After two weeks in the newsroom, I see that talking to white men boils down to a crude combination of cracking jokes about children and the morning commute, referring to sports teams and events at random, and imparting snide comments about this book or that article. It is especially impressive if you can comment on something buried deep in a news story, since everyone knows that no one actually reads the story to the end. Talking to white men, then, has a pattern, a set of rules, but try as I might, I can’t learn them. My mind blanks when they joke with me. I find myself nodding and looking the other way, hoping they will leave me alone.
…The copy editors call at seven, eight, and nine at night. In the morning, I board the subway, exhausted. I spot that day’s paper in someone’s hands. A small thrill comes into my heart. Someone is about to read one of my stories. But the woman scans the headlines, flips the pages, and then folds the paper and stores it in her bag. That’s it. Twelve hours of work—by hundreds of reporters, stringers, editors, copy editors, designers, and deliverymen—were considered for a total of five seconds by a white woman on the Number 6 train.
I meet humility for the first time, and I hate it."
Sometimes I read a piece of writing that stops me dead in my tracks. My day was going just fine but this piece about being a Latina journalist at The New York Times made me cry, laugh, and think about my own shit, and now it is all I am thinking about. Please read it.
I’m sitting here in a conference room overlooking the Mission District while I wait for a meeting to start. What is on my mind is wondering if maybe life would have been easier if I had just married that boring but stable guy when I was 22. Probably life would have been easier, yeah, in the sense that I would have been so unfulfilled from a sheer lack of experience that I would not even know what I was missing out on. I wouldn’t recognize it as unfulfillment though, I would call it something else. I would probably be sitting at a dining room table somewhere in a suburb of Seattle (he always talked about moving there), coffee cup still warm, hair frazzled and uncombed still at 10:30am.
Maybe I would be working on a short story that I only worked on after the kids (I would no doubt be a mother at 30 had I married him) went to school or bed. Maybe I would have had some stories published in lit magazines, but definitely nowhere on the Internet. I wouldn’t have a Tumblr.
Marrying that guy when he asked me to would have changed the entire trajectory of my life. My life would have been automatically placed on a straight and even-keeled road. The only bump would be like, maybe I would be worried about him cheating or how to keep the sex interesting after eight years of marriage. I would have been loved though. That man deeply, deeply loved me. I’d be lying if thinking about that life, even with its stresses, doesn’t offer a sort of bizarre comfort. It’s a superficial and fleeting reassurance though. It is fantasy and not even one that I want, just a fantasy that at one point was practically on the verge of reality. It’s mind-boggling, is all. That because I said no to his question I was given an entirely different set of choices, and mistakes, to make.
1. I have been putting way too much emphasis and importance into my appearance lately. I also have not been dedicating much time to writing. I fail to see how these two are not directly or perhaps indirectly related to each other. If I were producing work I was proud of, I would not feel as voluminous of a need to zero in on the way my body looks, on the way that I look. The writing would act as comfort, and that would be enough for me. The conclusion to this is still open-ended because I’m currently meandering through the muck of it.
2. My brother-in-law said something that was really shitty to me today and I’m still trying to detach myself from it. I realized this weekend that any sense of duty I have or had towards my family is just gone. I felt like a bad person when I realized this, but when he said what he said to me today, it was like waking up from a dream. How can I exert any effort in being close to people who tolerate emotional…abuse? I guess it’s mostly just antagonism but whenever people say “words are just words”, I want to scream. This is a suggestion that words don’t have any sort of authority. Let me tell you, as someone who has spent the better part of her life immersed in them, words have power. The words are doing something. Do not try to tell me hearing shit like “you’re worthless” does not leave a mark because even if it is invisible, it’s still there pulsating beneath my skin.
3. I have always felt that men should be kept at an arm’s length, especially with regard to emotions. Mine, namely. This story of self-conservation is the oldest of my life. “You’ve gotta take a risk” I was told today. That sounds like a terrible idea, but I know it’s correct. I have not been my best self the last couple of weeks. I think it is because shit is getting real and I’m scared, but this is me slapping myself in the face and waking up again from yet another dream. Deciding to trust someone; making a conscious decision to “let someone in” (I really hate that phrase, but it’s the only one that suffices right now), when you have experienced nothing but chaos and trauma and dysfunction feels like agreeing to jump out of an airplane even though last time you did, your parachute malfunctioned and you broke every bone in your body. But, that’s what I’m doing I guess. That is what I am doing.
4. New York, are you still there? East coast friends, do you remember me? Just checking.
5. Sandra Cisneros said: “We’re going to right the world and live. I mean live our lives the way lives were meant to be lived. With the throat and wrists. With rage and desire, and joy and grief, and love till it hurts, maybe. But goddamn, girl. Live.”
If I were to use internet lingo, this is where I would write, “Same.”
I love myself too much to waste time trying to explain the importance of Beyonce to someone who got mad at Nick Minaj for the “fuck skinny bitches” line. Life is too short.
If I’d had the kind of success I envisioned for myself when I was younger, I bet success would have made me a giant asshole. So, I’m 30 and not at all accomplished as a writer but I know that when I finally achieve this, I will appreciate it in ways I never would have as a 23 year old. I have encouraged myself this with this kind of thinking for so long now, it’s become a sort of prayer. Some days it is harder to believe than others though.