Going to camp today! Last weekend I went to visit Jack in DC and he lost power. Yeah DC heat w/o air conditioning! Today I’m heading to NH and while I’ll probably leave sobbing, I’m glad it’s a chance to see everything in action.
This article by Mitch Albom was published yesterday in the Detroit Free Press and I find it to be, above all, annoying. Reacting to Kindles-best-kept-secret that everyone knows about, Fifty Shades of Grey, Mr. Albom spends most of the article wistfully reminiscing about classic sexual tropes that include the ideas of “mystery” and “modesty” which most people whom have taken a women’s studies class know are really just euphemisms for virginity and/or traditional gender roles. Which are fine… but don’t deserve some sort of revered and holy preference.
Now, for the sake of full disclosure, I haven’t read the book in question, but for no other reason than I’m just not that interested. I have a great deal of respect for any writer who is able to turn Twilight based fan-fiction into a multi-million copy selling franchise, but those roots alone are enough to convince me the book probably is not my cup of tea. That being said, it’s unfair of me to dismiss his argument wholly without explaining my perspective. And I’ll admit that the women’s studies comment is a stereotype unto itself, but much of what Mr. Albom argues is problematic in a way that is easily hidden behind his “Call me old fashioned, but…” tone. To begin with, Mr. Albom starts his argument with what seems to be genuine shock over the premise that the book is all about sex - but then goes on to add “Not your typical sex. Kinky sex. Sex with ropes.” Now forgetting the fact that the idea of “typical sex” is already a confusing enough concept to begin to unpack and a curious categorization for somebody who claims to be shocked by the content anyway (is typical sex straight sex? gay sex? no sex? other kinds of sex? the possibilities are endless!), what I find to be most strange about this idea is the genuine shock as sex as a literary topic.
Sex in literature has existed… since literature was invented. While Mr. Albom would be fair in arguing “Well never before have we seen this!” as few texts considered part of the “cannon” deal so explicitly with sex, it seems unlikely, with no offense meant to E.L. James that this story will be taught in high schools of the future - and if it is, I’d like to see how it’s approached. That being said, aside from stories that make their allusions (for example, Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert… or just about anything written by the brilliant Tennessee Williams) it’s unfair to decry this kind of writing as novel. “The Story of the Eye” by Georges Bataille, in all likelihood, could give Ms. James a run for her money when it comes to explicit description and shock factor, and it was published in 1928 - a little before the free-lovin’ 60s from which Mr. Albom hails. Bataille’s tail chronicles the sexual exploits of two young teenagers, laying to shame the questions of consent inFifty Shades of Grey.
Furthermore, aside from sex as a human action that much like birth and death are parts of human life that merit acknowledgement in literature, Mr. Albom makes the classing mistake of longing for the past before shows like the short-lived Don’t Trust the B- in Apt. 23. Ahh the good old days… where shows like Laugh-In (a play on sit-ins of the time) featured Goldie Hawn as a prop wearing a bathing suit were there to keep us modest and mysterious. Harkening back to his “controversial” decade of birth and longing for a time when words like penis and vagina - or in his words the “p-word” and “v-word”* were not mentioned on television also longs for a time in which life was not better for a lot of people whom Mr. Albom is not. The Women’s Rights movement blossomed in the 60s, giving the United States organizations like NOW, and the once promising but now dead Equal Rights Amendment that has still never been ratified by all the states. The 60s was also a time when many nations around the world, such as Argentina and Bolivia were giving women legal majority. Not to mention this statistic about the state of women’s economic standing today. The 60s was the dawn of the gay rights movement as it saw the Stonewall riots. Not to mention the Civil Rights Movement, which as a writer for a Detroit paper, Mr. Albom should know all about.
Most of that is a leap, but it’s what stuck out to me in the article. While maybe today new literature/pop culture in general has become more “explicit” there are also more choices. If it makes you uncomfortable don’t read it - but do not label it as problematic simply because it’s not to your taste. But more importantly, don’t pretend it’s totally new and surprising. I think people were making similar arguments about talking pictures… No matter the caliber of the writing itself, I think it’s awesome that there’s a woman out there who is writing about sex in a way she wants to write about it - something that may not have been so widely consumed and appreciated in a more modest and mysterious time.
*As a writer from Detroit, Mr. Albom’s decision to use a euphemism for the word vagina is particularly upsetting considering the current politics in the Michigan State Assembly.
I just spilled coffee all over my khaki skirt and am now wearing a too long and too large pair of students’ pants to compensate. Awesome.
I really enjoy reading other people’s tumblrs, which makes me feel like I should pay in exchange by updating my own - but then I remember that would only be payment to those souls longing to read my own tumblr, and I remain complacent.
I moved Jack down to DC this week. DC is an interesting place that I sometimes secretly wish I lived in and always outwardly profess to be annoyed with. As a city itself, it’s small and manageable, with a weird but workable train system. There are approximately 9,000 neighborhoods, all of which vary in terms of look, safety and population, and of course, there is our beloved federal government. I enjoyed wandering around the publicly funded museums and looking at all of the different federal agencies (and of course the capital building) and even began to wonder what my life would be like if I was working more directly in politics instead of teaching.
And then I remembered that I get to live in NYC and hang out with crazy teenagers instead of living in DC and hang out with crazy adults. And I felt fine with what I’ve chosen.
Just kidding to all you DC-ers out there! Or am I?
I really like this song and I AM OKAY IF THAT MAKES ME A HIPSTER.
Sometimes I wish I updated this more, but sometimes I realize that few people are (rightfully) interested in my life musings.
Tonight is my second parent teacher conferences.
I’m looking forward to being a better teacher.
I haven’t written in this for quite sometime now. Mostly that is because I spend the majority of my free time sleeping and ingesting saturated fat calories, but also because I’m not sure if this is a really appropriate medium to be sharing my thoughts. I’m considering starting some sort of email update for anyone interested in what it’s like to be a flailing first year teacher, but why spend your free time reading about my experiences that have the potential to sound like preaching?
All in all the best way I have come up to describe teaching is that there is no middle ground. At the end of everyday, I either feel like I have had 3 of my 4 limbs eaten by 16 year olds while I am still living, or I feel like how I know I would feel if I could eat pizza, red velvet cake and ice cream for every meal everyday. (THAT FEELING WOULD BE GREAT.)
To conclude for the blogosphere, I’m really glad I’m doing this - like, elated. I feel incredibly lucky everyday that I was able to find something I love and feel very passionately about so early in my career - but at the same time I feel like I’m currently so bad at it that it negates a lot of the joy I know I could otherwise be feeling.
That’s all for now!
Today is the 4th of July and I am celebrating by wearing red, white and blue. This is literally the only thing I am doing to celebrate because TFA is requiring that we are in sessions from 7 am - noon, after which I am sure I’ll be spending the rest of the day panicking and lesson planning because starting tomorrow it seems as if somebody messed up and trusted me with a summer school class. For the summer, I’ll be teaching 8th grade social studies at a school in the Bronx. I’m excited… but mostly terrified. So far, TFA has reinforced/taught me the same things.
1) Teaching is hard. I already knew this but I’m currently having my face rubbed in it. It’s fine, but - and excuse me for sounding overconfident - this is the first time I’ve ever been so bad at anything I’ve wanted to be so good at. Well, this and and my foray into the world of everything else as well I suppose.
2) Living in the dorms is lame. While the food is better than I expected, it is still not AWESOME and the the mattresses and showers here leave something to be desired. Yes that makes me sound like a Princess and no I do not care.
3) I take everything way too personally which will probably be my greatest strength and largest weakness during this whole process. If my kids do poorly this summer I can already tell that I will be heartbroken, and if they do well I’ll probably collapse due to an excitement induced bout of cardiac arrest. Either way there will be tears.
4) For the rest of my life my destiny probably involves carrying around a 35 lb backpack on the daily.
That’s all for now. I’ll share more mundane details about my life with you, oh many and overcrowding readers.
ADIOS AND HAPPY 4TH.
This whole not going to New Hampshire thing this summer really stinks.
1) I always forget about this thing. That’s probably good.
2) I’m now a college graduate. If you had asked me 10 years ago what I wanted to do with a college degree, I would have told you I didn’t want anything that involved a college degree and that I wanted to move to Chicago so I could be in Second City and then be on SNL. If you had asked me 5 years ago what I wanted to do after I got a college degree, I probably would have said, yeah I’ll take the degree, but then I want to take classes at Second City so I can write for SNL like Tina Fey. If you had asked me 2 years ago what I wanted to do with a college degree, I probably would have started crying. Now I’m doing Teach for America.
3) I’m in love with Ju-da-a-as Ju-u-da-a-as.
4) Hi Adam!
1. I have decided that before I die, I’d like to run the NYC marathon. I’m not sure why, since I’m terrible at running and will probably never be in shape BUT WHATEVER. You can come watch in 35 years (as that is how long it will probably take me to train.)
2. I’m done with college at 3:30 PM on Friday.
True love is doing shots in your living room with your roommates for no reason. But at the same time FOR EVERY REASON.
That awkward moment when you’re interviewing local lawyer for an article your friend asked you to write and you suddenly get a bloody nose! Zoinks!
I was basically counting down the days until graduation like a bitter baby and now all of the sudden I am PANICKING about “not having made the most of it” etc.
If your parents are divorced and you love Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman DO NOT EVER watch Kramer vs. Kramer unless you are comfortable with sobbing embarrassingly loud alone in your room at 1:15 am.
That is all.