I left writing class tonight with a chip on my shoulder.
The topic was book reviewing. Specifically, for the Times. I listened to a discussion about the Almighty Book, its implied importance oh-so-much more relevant than other media. The power of THE BOOK. All hail the author, all hail the awe with which one beholds the published writer, whose name on the book cover instantly conveys their legitimacy. God bless the mighty editor, the incredible weekly newspaper insert of the vaunted Times, all hail the commonly known names of writers that everyone else knows by osmosis.
"My ass," I thought. I felt a wall of fury and revulsion building within me. It's not books that piss me off. Look, I write books. It's this notion of cultural elitism. I don't come from money and I don't have the benefit of any special access or pass into the arrogant world of anticipated success. I am jealous of those who do have access, those who look down and don't notice the key to the kingdom on their keychain, because after all, it's always been there.
"Why are you taking a writing class?" My ex had asked me back in the spring, before he opted to become a prefix.
I gave him a lame answer but what I wanted to say was that I'd seen how he'd taught at Princeton, in Lebanon, New Orleans, and in Cairo, how he'd worked with his students to open up worlds to them, to facilitate their success. He'd given hall passes to the those who had come in with blank scraps of paper. I wanted to take writing classes with working journalists because of the opportunities he'd given his students. I craved opportunity. But I should have known he was different.
And so am I. I meet people, or go to parties, or even would sit with the aforementioned prefixes friends (many of which have that easy access to elitism that I so deeply resent), and I would think:
I am not of this world.
I have seldom not been alienated. Hell, I was alienated at Antioch. That takes a special skill. I come from a seriously different background to most of my peers, and I grew up early, grew up hard and independent but with a center so gooey and scared that the shell had to harden even more. I am more at home abroad than in my own apartment. I'll take Curves over pilates any day. I have monkey feet. I'd rather take a workshop in bag-sewing than in writing book reviews. I am more JC than Brooklyn, always just a bit offset from the mainstream.
And so I sat, working my stomach into knots. I shouldn't have wasted my money on this writing class. And yet, it's good for me. It's good to be forced to write beyond your repertoire. But I hate it. But it's good for me. Is it? Why did I think the prefixes responsibility as an instructor would be repeated elsewhere? Was I doing all right with the students I was teaching at the arts school ten blocks away? What would I teach them tomorrow night? I worried about Kuwaiti comic books, about a trade show in Dubai, a theme park near the Iraqi border. I felt anxiety and panic inside as others blithely talked about a book they'd read.
How the hell can I be so alienated at my age? What am I supposed to do to get past this? Why did I not read anyone else's reviews?
And back home, I considered the two essays I had to write for Friday, and the lesson plan for comic book coloring school.
And froze up.
I washed dishes. Messed around with Facebook. And finally, sat down to cut fusible interfacing to sew a new bag.
Writing. I can do it.
Tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow.
But cooling down and behaving normally in society?
That one might take a while.