Hi. I’m taking a memoir writing class now. Before I started, I did that before school excitement thing. Would I like the teacher? Who would be there? Would they be nice? CAN I HAVE A FRIEND is my eternal yawning void, we-all-die-alone question I ask myself in any new situation. I predicted it would be mostly women, and probably older ones who had Done Some Shit and wanted to write it down. Interesting women!
I was pretty much correct. There’s a couple of younger women, but mostly it’s 40s and up. When I look around and see just women in a room a nice word floats across the marquee of my brain just like Vonnegut’s Wayne Hoobler and his “fairyland”: LADYSPACE.
Then there was one dude, maybe late 20s, who walked in kind of last-minute and it was fine. I don’t care, I thought. I will allow this, gavel bang. But! I am not going to censor myself, I said.
I hate that I have to tell myself not to censor myself, but I really didn’t care that he was there. On the first day we had to introduce ourselves and say something about why we took this class or what we wanted to write about if we knew.
“I used to be in tech and now I’m in construction,” I said. “So I’ve gone from microaggressions to macroaggressions.” I cannot say anything about myself without self-protective attempts at humor. “I’ve mostly worked with men throughout my career and now I work with, like, ninety-nine percent men.”
One of the older women interrupted me to remind me there was a man in the room. Caution.
“Well, he knows how men are, he is one,” I said.
“Yeah,” he said, and laughed.
“There’s good ones and bad ones everywhere, just like women,” I said and I moved on.
Later I was in my friend’s kitchen while her husband cooked us dinner and I told them about my first day of class.
“In conclusion,” I said, waggling my negroni for emphasis, “it is important to consider the feelings of men in the room, even if there is just one man,” I said. “I’m allowed to say these things, though.” I pointed at my friend’s husband, who was seasoning chicken. “You can take it, right? You guys are always telling us how tough you are.” He sighed and my friend and I laughed.
The next week there was a late arrival: another man. LADYSPACE was looking a little more like dude jetsam in a ladysea. This one was a sixty-something white guy. I did an ability check and decided to rely on my +2 alienating pink hair and sat down next to a woman I found interesting last week.
“Hey I’m SJ,” I said. “Remind me of your name please?”
Since there was only the three of us in this room, it was quiet and he decided to insert himself.
“I’m Greg! I wasn’t here last week.” We said our hellos. I managed to ask her if she’d been writing a lot in the last week before class started but not much else.
Today I was early again and new friend was there along with Greg. My people, the earlybird club.
Greg told a story related to our reading on memory, scene, and place about working in Germany when he was younger and romanticizing it later, but then returning and remembering all the bad things, like how he was worked like a slave and how hard it was.
“Hmm, that reminds me of childbirth,” I said. “I love to think about the good parts of when my girls were little but if I suddenly landed in a maternity ward I’d probably start screaming and never stop.”
“I can’t relate to that at all!” Greg said.
Later in class we did a little quick writing on scene setting and I volunteered to read the few paragraphs I’d barfed out. I got some good feedback and questions from the teacher and other people in class. We heard a couple more pieces and then class was over.
It was one of those little moments that I love–that moment when you know you’re starting to like the teacher and she’s not in a huge hurry to leave, and the other students who have somewhere to be start filtering out. The talk slides from class mode into conversation, just people who have been sharing ideas and have their creative pumps primed.
There was a small break in the discussion and I slipped out, conscious of not being that person who goes from some some last-minute pleasantries to trapping the teacher there while she glances at the clock, realizing that she is now doing unpaid work.
Greg tagged along after me on the way out. “I wanted to say something about when you were reading,” he said. “Oh shoot, I forgot my coat.” I waited for him, even though I didn’t really want to. Maybe something I can use will come out of this. It’s good to be open to other perspectives, I told myself.
He had remained silent after I read, which surprised me a little, because I was prepared to hear his opinion then. He has an opinion on everything we discuss in class. Here it comes, I thought, as I held the door for him.
“I was thinking to myself that I was getting distracted because I was thinking about everything else we had talked about in class,” he said.
“Oh,” I said. “There’s a lot going on.”
“Yeah, I actually didn’t hear anything you read at all. I was thinking I probably should have paid attention. But I didn’t hear one word!”
[What color is this lampshade? I am not sure but it’s…covered in something viscous and dark:]
Did. Did this motherfucker just stop me from leaving class and going on my merry way to tell me he hadn’t listen to what I’d read at all? OF COURSE HE HAD.
“Oh well,” I said. “I have children so I’m pretty used to being ignored when I speak. Have a good week!”
I slipped into the bathroom before he could say another word.