Regarding Mothers

[CN: suicide attempt]

sargent_mother and daughter
Mrs. Fiske Warren and Her Daughter Rachel, by John Singer Sargent (via)

I have been pondering, of late, these words from Bethany Webster:

“The most insidious forms of patriarchy pass through the mother.”

I have been pondering these words (and the essay they title) so much, in fact, that I am having a hard time writing about anything else. At the same time, I am not ready or willing to write about my mother.

Not yet.

Maybe not ever.

I don’t write to my mother either, not any more. Not since she returned the last letter I sent her, a card for Mother’s Day three years ago in which I wrote: “I know things are rough between us right now. But I believe we both love each other enough that we will get through this.”

She returned that card to me a few weeks later, after the patch between us had become so rough—at least for me—that I needed space away and stopped replying to her phone calls. She returned the card via overnight delivery, together with two typed pages of violent and hateful anger. The viciousness of my mother’s letter was palpable even in the skimming I gave it, unwilling to take on the hurt of a more careful read.

[The other reason I didn’t read it carefully, I must explain, was that her FedEx arrived on a morning I hadn’t expected to wake up. I was too preoccupied figuring out why my latest suicide attempt hadn’t worked to give her letter more than a once-over glance, checking to see if it provided any motivation for me not to try again.

It did not.]

I tossed the FedEx envelope and its contents atop a stack of random papers on my desk and forgot about it in my flurry of other concerns. If I had succeeded at death in that third and final attempt (it occurred to me much later), the letter from my mother would have been easily found by anyone searching my room for desperate answers. In place of the farewell note I did not write, one might have found the letter I barely read—and drawn their own conclusion.

I’m glad I didn’t burden my mother with that.

Continue reading “Regarding Mothers”

Coming Out of the Quiet

Deray McKesson — Black Lives Matter activist, founding member of We The Protestors, “curator, connector,” and Twitterer extraordinaire — gave a speech on Saturday at a San Francisco gala hosted by GLAAD.

McKesson spoke about the protest in Ferguson, and how those early days grew into a movement. About what it means to love himself as a proud black gay man. About the power of Twitter as a force in fostering community and sustaining activism, and how social media has enabled those who have felt alone to find one another — and to make their voices heard.

Because I believe this speech is too good not to be heard, I am sharing it here.

Because I can’t be the only person who prefers reading to listening, I also transcribed it. (You’re welcome!)

Because I proved unable to control myself, I have added emphasis to certain passages below. Mostly these’re the ones I want to run through the streets shouting into people’s faces, so I figured a font change was the better choice. (You’re welcome again!)

Without further ado — take it away, Deray…


A year ago in St. Louis, we never thought that the protests would spread the way that they have. We never thought that people would rise up in their own communities. We knew that people were going to stand with us in St. Louis, but we didn’t know that it would spread. But it did. And here we are.

In those early days, we made two commitments:a commitment to stand today, and a commitment to fight tomorrow. We made those commitments despite it being illegal in St. Louis to stand still. We made those commitments despite being arrested for what we knew was right. We made those commitments despite being teargassed and shot at with rubber bullets. We made those commitments because we knew that we were on the right side of justice.

And those commitments started as commitments of protest. Protest is confrontation, protest is disruption, protest is the end of silence. And for us, the protest began in the street. But protest is so many things.

I think often of this tweet:

Continue reading “Coming Out of the Quiet”

Alice Goes Down the Rabbit Hole

I’ve got some reading material to recommend to you today, a website I found at once horrifying and reassuring. Hildi suggested I might want to start you off with something gentle — a bread crumb of cuteness you could reference to get back out of the Rabbit Hole, should you decide to follow me down.

She also thought a picture of herself was the best way to reach the necessary cuteness quotient.

2014-12-29 08.12.00
“It’ll all be okay, I promise. Also, have you got any snacks?”

Thanks to Natalie Luhrs and her fantastic weekly links posts over at Pretty Terrible^, I recently came across just the site that I needed — at just the moment that I needed it. Given what I know about You, my lovely Readers, I have a hunch that some of you will want to explore about this site too (or may at least find it interesting).

The website is called Down the Rabbit Hole: The world of estranged parents’ forums.

“For several years now I’ve followed blogs about narcissists and other abusers, written by victims of abuse. They’re powerful tools for recovery, and powerful testimonials to the impact of emotional abusers on other people’s lives. What’s been missing is the abusers’ perspective on the abuse. The narcissists I see online don’t write about their relationships with their children and close friends; they hardly write about their own partners, except as props in the narcissist’s ongoing drama. I assumed that there was no way to get the abusers’ side of the story, that abusers are smart enough to not incriminate themselves in their own blogs, and like hell would they get together with other abusers to discuss abuse.

“I was wrong.”

Continue reading “Alice Goes Down the Rabbit Hole”

Fierce Truths. Necessary Stories.

Two young girls chase each other exuberantly, flush with the thrill of play and life and laughter. A writer watches them from a distance:

“In them, I glimpse the girl I fleetingly was. I want to take them by their small, sweaty hands, sit with them on a stoop littered with bubble gum wrappers and cigarette butts and show them where I’ve been and hope my words may offer some protection. Give them a story that is confounding, contradictory, and truer than any other stories they will hear.”

“Girls Run Circles” from I am a red dress, by Anna Camilleri^

Last fall, I bought a book in Portland. I bought it almost at random: the famous bookstore was famous; the resonant title was resonant.

Or maybe a whisper in my bones told me I needed it.

“Give them a story that is more true, most true, true blue. I would say: You may lose yourself. Life is about finding much of who we once were and there are many lost girls who eventually find something of themselves again. I would tell them, you are precious and special and beautiful, not because you are girls, good girls, pretty girls — just because you are.”

red dress_book jacketAnna Camilleri’s I am a red dress: Incantations on a Grandmother, a Mother, and a Daughter was the first (and final) book I read last year. The first book I had read in over 18 months. I hadn’t made it past more than a few pages of anything since the ethnographic and cultural study of African-American women’s politics I read in glassy-eyed panic during the long nights of June, 2013, spent in Unit 6 — a book I read mostly to prove I was not crazy.

I was not like the young woman in the room across from the admitting station, who stabbed a nurse in the arm with the three-inch pencil she’d been given to fill out her meals-request form for the next day. (Though after the first day spent alone in my silent room — I too mighta stabbed myself in the leg with a pen, if they hadn’t all been taken away together with my shoelaces.)

I was not like the large man in the flapping-open hospital gown, who migrated about the dining area eating pudding cups off the trays of anyone not yet arrived. (Though after the second day of eating only institutional food — I too was eyeing other patients’ unsupervised desserts.)

Crazy people, I reasoned, don’t bring critical feminist analyses of race and politics with them to the psych ward. 

Continue reading “Fierce Truths. Necessary Stories.”

Anyone else troubled by “unconditional” love?

In a recent interview for the poetry journal Rattle, Troy Jollimore put his finger on exactly what has always bothered me about the language of “unconditional love.” And–seeing as how he’s a highly credentialed philosopher and poet–he nailed it pretty darn well, so I’ma just step back now and let him speak (though any emphasis you see is added by yours truly):

“The reaction I find myself having when I really think about genuinely unconditional love is that I wouldn’t want to be loved unconditionally, because it would almost have nothing to do with me. I think what we really want is strong love that it would take a whole lot to threaten.

Continue reading “Anyone else troubled by “unconditional” love?”