Saturday, May 23, 2009

not the greatest

way to spend a Saturday.

I was late because I was given poor directions. I spent the entire day sitting in one spot (and I work in a day care centre, so I'm used to moving around a lot during the day. I only wrote one thing that was anywhere close to good, and I think I could have done as well at home. Or sitting in the park on a beautiful afternoon, soaking in the sunshine and smelling the lilac blooms.

I don't need writing prompts anymore. I think I'm beyond that. What I want, more than anything is honest feedback. What I need to figure out is how to take my stack of stories and get them out there for people to read.

Consider my best effort for today:

I don't remember my first period. I honestly don't. It was no big deal, because my mom had told me all about it. "Just go to the cupboard," she said to me,"and get yourself a pad. You might get cramps."

And that was all there was to it. Simple.

My mom couldn't say the word hemorrhoid without breaking into seven shades of embarrassment. But she managed, by looking at the ceiling, or the roof of the car, wherever we were when we had "the talk," to get through the mechanics of everything. Everything I needed to know about my period. That I would bleed. That I could wear pads. That I might get cramps.

But she never explained why.

I learned the facts of life from a series of pastel-coloured pamphlets that sat at the back of my seventh-grade classroom. I went to a Catholic school, and my teacher, Mr Cappelli, never really talked about sex, he just waved his large hand vaguely towards the back of the room. And there was a film. Two films - one for girls that the boys couldn't watch, and one for the boys that girls couldn't watch. "Girl to Woman" was made sometime in the 1950's. I watched it in 1977. All the girls in the film had ponytails and wore penny loafers and big, full skirts. The walked down the hall of their school, talking about their periods like they were no big deal. They didn't shift their eyes and giggle, like the girls in my class, who knew something about something, who had already unlocked the secret of why.Who had mothers that either ignored them, or who weren't paranoid about what they were doing with their fingers under the crocheted blankets on their princess beds.

I missed the boat. The pamphlets told me everything I needed to know, about what body parts went where, and implied that penises and vaginas only went together for the sake of procreation. The pamphlets didn't tell me it was supposed to feel good, so I didn't expect that, and anyways, I had no friends to giggle with.

My mother could not say things that might unlock her heart. Neither could I, because I learned that some things were just not talked about. She would sit at the table, with her hands wrapped around a cup of coffee, and say nothing more profound than "Gus, I think we'll start buying powdered skim milk in order to save money." I believed for a long time that she only thought about things like dishes, and the grocery bill, and the weather for the next day. She said things that didn't matter, because the ones that did were too painful to speak.

My period came and went with no notice at all. I found the pads in the bathroom cupboard. I had some cramps. It came back the next month.

I'm not trying to be hyper-critical, of myself, or the convenor. It's not that I'm beyond receiving good, honest feedback. It's just that I didn't get much of what I was looking for. I learned that it was funny, and that it already read like a story.

If I'd gone across town, it would have been no big deal. But I spent four hours in the car today, and a small chunk of spending money that I could have used to pay for something else.

Oh well. Lesson learned. All writing retreats/workshops are not created equally.

At least I got to enjoy the scenery.


reeflightning said...

fine piece of writing! i would say, forget the workshops ... it is a publisher you are in need of.

Anna said...

Thank you :)

Maria said...

My best writing comes at strange moments, never when I sit down to write. Often, the best ideas come when I am just too busy to sit down and write them out, so they end up stewing in my head while I mentally revise and rework and surprisingly...all that "marinating" does wonders. When I finally sit down, I often have a finished product just ready to spill out.