So, yesterday was entertaining. Louise got me thinking, though. This morning I'm thinking about responsibility, what it really means to live in the present, and the real reason I started writing with the theme of breakup stories.
We read a lot of romance stories. Romance novels, for instance, are always a big seller. We can simply look at the popularity of viral videos of wedding proposals, shows like The Bachelor and Coupled and it's clear that people like romance stories.
But what do we learn from those? We learn that if you want to invite someone to prom, you have to go all out, I guess.
I'm not a huge romance fan when it comes to what I read and watch. As I sit here typing, I keep thinking about stories like Go Fish, or Better than Chocolate, or Big Eden. All of them have relationship story cores, but they are also all politically relevant and tackle such issues as identity, censorship, and family dynamics--those are the things that I watch the films for.
So, my initial impulse well over a year ago in regards to break-up stories was (as I indicated in my post that started the theme) not just to look at any particular break up or even really to focus on the relationships at all. Instead, the focus is on the ways that we break up with ideas, concepts, and old patterns of behavior.
In other words, even though I've written about Huey a couple of times, the stories aren't about Huey. And, if Louise is who I think he is, they aren't about Alistair, either. The stories are moments in time where, as Zora Neale Hurston wrote in Their Eyes Were Watching God, "something slid off a shelf inside." There will be other moments that have nothing to do with that character. Note that I am using this word deliberately, as reflections on who I perceived him to be 25 years ago or even 15 years ago are, at this point, creative interpretations.
If you can't see that he's a character and a minor one, you're reading the stories incorrectly.
Louise mentioned yesterday that if someone wanted to figure out who Huey is, it would be "easy." I've been thinking about that a good bit in the last 24 hours. As I said yesterday, I'm sure that's true and one reason it is true is that the people who would recognize who that character is based on where either (A) present in the moment when Huey behaved badly or (B) helped with the fall out from said behavior.
I used the metaphor of "virtual living room" yesterday, which Louise objected to. Fine. Let's use the metaphor of a table in a restaurant then. I'm at a restaurant, and it's packed. I'm having martinis with a group of friends and we're telling stories. There's lots of laughter coming from our table. You're walking by and hear a name you recognize and realize that I'm telling a story about someone you know.
What do you do?
Do you start screaming that I'm being unfair and unruly in a public place? How dare I sit in a restaurant in Little Rock or Conway and tell such a story! Someone who knew me in the early 1990s may overhear. Do you say that because we're having a laugh over something really dumb I allowed to happen 25 years ago that I'm bitter and stuck in the past?
Or, do you walk on since you were not part of that conversation?
And before you start in, yes, I realize that online communication is more "permanent" than stories that get told over a few drinks. But that's part of the point. These entries are writing practice and they are also reflection that holds me accountable for the crappy choices I made at the time.
My folks were never into spending extra money for a label. When we first moved to Arkansas, I remember being horrified that my school clothes came from Bill's on the square. Bill's was kind of like Fred's. I don't even think they exist anymore. I was 12 and I just knew everyone in town would know the new kid got her clothes at Bill's. My mother simply said something like, "Well, if they know where you got the clothes that means they must shop there too."
Indeed. In much the same way, these stories are familiar to people who knew Huey because they witnessed this behavior. And they are also familiar to people who never met him and have no clue of his true identity because we all have a Huey in our past somewhere.
Louise is worried that I'm stuck in the past. I've been reading a lot lately about memoir--specifically women's memoir writing. Not surprisingly, memoirs written by women are often panned as worthless nostalgia or bitter ramblings. I'm no Miss Havisham, however. There's no moldy wedding cake in my room. That's part of the glory of being in my 40s--I've started breaking up with the voice inside my head that tells me that I can't write about something because "what will X think?"
You see, that sort of silence is what leads people to tolerate bad behavior. And those who are silent about the past are those who are stuck in those same patterns of behavior. The reason that I can write about these stories some 15-25 years later is because they don't hold power over me anymore. That's what starts happening when you accept the past--it can't be used against you.
Huey's said in a public social media space that he's done being a "people pleaser" and that he has no issues sharing his testimony with anyone who asks. If these things are true, I would assume that Huey has accepted the past as I have.
In the words of my wife, who busted out laughing this morning when I said something about "I don't want my writing to reflect badly on you or make people think less of you because of what I write" once you can accept the past "that shit's funny."