Discover more from ASK MOLLY
The Garden of Paracelsus (1957) by Leonora Carrington
I woke up at 4 am this morning with the realization that not only am I late in writing Polly and Molly this week, but I’m also late in writing my next book. And if I don’t write another memoir soon, the New York Times won’t be able to find a lovably old-fashioned yet rapidly decomposing man from the Night King’s army of the undead to review it for them.
This thought caused me to lie in my bed for a long time, pondering the puckish old zombie who reviewed my first memoir for the New York Times. In his review, he asserted that unfamous people in general and unfamous women in particular should never, ever write first-person accounts of their lives. Such accounts are always Very Boring and Don’t Matter At All, particularly to certain esteemed book reviewing males whose faces are actively rotting off. I imagined one of his eyeballs falling onto the pages of my book with a wet splat as he pretended to read it. But then I wondered what other things unfamous women shouldn’t do. Ride bicycles? Eat crispy taco shells out of the box, standing up in their ugly kitchens? There’s no telling! And none of us will ever know if I don’t write another memoir soon.
Because it was 4 in the morning, I also had time to reminisce about the thoroughly charming but rapidly decaying zombie who reviewed my second memoir for the New York Times, the one who proclaimed that “marriage is a secret,” which apparently means that unfamous authors and women and unfamous women authors in particular should never, ever write about their marriages. Male authors being voraciously consumed by maggots and marching in lockstep with the army of the undead should, of course, write about their marriages, and they should also post about their marriages on social media and hold forth about their marriages at length in public whenever possible. But keep in mind, this is only okay because 1) they are famous, 2) they are men, 3) the tissues of their body are liquefying in plain sight.
Fair enough! But what else is a secret, at least where unfamous women writers are involved? Stamp collecting? Metabolism? Last minute jaunts to the South Pacific? We will surely never find out if I don’t start a new memoir immediately.
The stakes feel high. Is that only true because I’m a woman and the skin of my face isn’t hanging off my skull in devil-may-care ribbons? I certainly have new stories to share. But isn’t that inappropriate and distasteful, since I’m not a man and gases such as methane and nitrogen aren’t accumulating in my body cavity in the most seductive and suspenseful fashion imaginable?
Sometimes I worry that my desire to share my thoughts, feelings, and life experiences on the page is just a side effect of the fact that I’m a living, breathing woman and not a reanimated heap of skin and sun-bleached bones carrying a hatchet. I worry that sharing details of my life is just another pathological compulsion typical of sentient female humans who spend their waking hours doing shameful and pathetic things like “breathing oxygen” and “speaking out loud” instead of stumbling blindly across the earth in search of human flesh. What if I write another memoir and I try to speak in public about it and someone notices that my eyeballs are still firmly lodged inside my skull? It feels risky.
I guess that’s why the Night King’s zombie army is out there, doing its sexy and alluring job, reminding the rest of us what is and isn’t appropriate and interesting and worthwhile. They just want to prevent us from making idiots of ourselves – when they’re not eating the flesh off our faces, anyway.
It’s strange being a woman. You learn to bite your tongue and you consider that a triumph. You pat yourself on the back for shutting up, as if that’s the boldest and most courageous thing to do, as if the world isn’t filled with constant reminders to simmer down, stop it, back up, cover yourself, hide your emotions, be less everything and more nothing. I’ve often looked back at the year Foreverland came out and thought that my biggest mistake was addressing the reaction to the excerpt, or the reaction to that reaction. I’ve often felt that I shouldn’t have agreed to discuss anything unrelated to the book itself. If you want people to read a book, after all, you should talk about the book and not analyze the motives of decomposing armies of the night.
But now I really wonder why I believed that my outspoken comments were my biggest mistake and silence was my biggest victory, as my very romantic book was being portrayed as a heinous act of betrayal, mostly by a bizarre cadre of insecure wife guys. While the raging inferno of stupid that followed my book’s release strikes me as beyond absurd now, I question my repeated determination to let it go, take it all in stride, try not to cast aspersions on anyone, and laugh it off like it was all completely typical and normal and no big deal. I question the belief that anything less than playing along with the clown show makes you an annoying, bitter, self-serious loser.
I mean, how many different varieties of loser can a woman be in her lifetime?
I intend to find out. And when I do, you’d better believe I’m going to write about it.