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Hi Stacey, have you ever been asked something personal that made you feel uncomfortable? I realize posting this on your Q & A page, as a precursor to requesting advice regarding my own experience, might come across as a bit cheeky- if not oblivious or stupid. But I assure you I'm just curious if you've ever received an email/text/message/direct line of questioning that made you feel the air go out of your lungs or some other sensation of strangeness/impropriety. And also I was wondering how you handled it.
As an aside, I have this idea of you in my mind, as a smart talking Chandler-esque femme fatale- the looks of Bacall and the mouth of Bogey- delivering quip, no bullshit repartee. Which means occasionally I try to channel you. Thank you! Anyway- the other day I got a message from a friend-of-a-friend asking me about my ex-boyfriend and if her friend should date the guy. But she also asked if rumors she'd heard about our relationship, i.e. that he was abusive, were true. It was probably the most tactless message I've ever received and the fact that it was sent over facebook makes some part of me want to shrivel up.
It brought up plenty of unpleasant emotion, in large part because my ex was a nightmare. He was an alcoholic. We met when he was "working the steps" and he spoke to me of a conviction to change. I found out 6 months in that he had begun drinking again, in secret, and throughout the duration of our two year relationship we cycled through a pattern of drinking, lying, fighting, repentance, sobriety; rinse, repeat. He was a Jekyll and Hyde, really gentle and fun sober. Belligerent and mean drunk. In the worst argument we had- he slapped me, pushed me to the floor where my knees dug into broken glass, and began to choke me. It was the only instance of actual physical aggression, although he was frequently intimidating. To this day, two years later, I have no idea how I got there. To that particular moment.
I wish I could say that after that I packed up all my things and never spoke to him again. But it wasn't till a few months later when I found evidence of infidelity that I finally found it in me to end things. We stopped talking. A month or so later he called, made intimations of suicide. I told him to never contact me again and we haven't had any interaction since. So when I get this clipped message, asking for "advice/confirmation" I can't help but feel blindsided. All day I've had this kind of psychic shock about me. I can't quite decide how to respond, or if I should at all.
I feel pulled in a few directions- I never want what happened to me to be visited upon anyone else. I think I'd feel terrible if anyone were to be harmed by him after asking me advice. But I also know that the actions of my ex are in no way my responsibility. And it has taken me a very long time to be able to say that: I am not responsible for him or for any of his choices. I can't intervene and warn and protect him or anyone else from his drunk behavior. It is not my job.
Of course, if this girl is really concerned about her friend getting involved with him- I'm not going to be the one to say "Go for it!".But I also don't think it's the place of an ex to really weigh in on these things. There were many instances when, in the course of dating someone, I'd have loved to have had the ex on the line to ask advice. But you can't really do that, or you shouldn't. Also, there are certainly days when I'd relish a chance to run his name through the mud, I even once looked up the Statute of Limitations. But lately, I can't really be bothered. I can see how dysfunctional it all was- his behaviors as well as mine. I was totally lost.
I also think it's significant to say that I'm still afraid of him, of the retribution he might seek if he were to find out that I was warning his potential lovers off. He is someone that hurt me deeply, and to discuss these matters with his potential future lovers (even by proxy) means I risk it as well- bringing people back into my life I've, at a great emotional cost, extracted. I'm also on some level surprised by the lack of sensitivity displayed by the friend-of-a-friend writing me. The history of that relationship comprises one of the most difficult narratives of my adult life. I fought against someone's slow-suicide by alcohol, became a complete co-dependent, got knocked around and cheated on, and finally- for fuck's sake- got free of it. But then to have it blithely brought up over facebook??
Stacey, do you think there's a right thing to do here?
Of course! I've been asked many things that have made me uncomfortable or angry or sad, and been commented on in ways that have made me paranoid and enraged, and I rarely handle it with well-placed wisecracks (though thank you for using me in your empowering image). You may be relieved to know that no one does, at least not all the time, because when you're really uncomfortable, you're having mixed feelings and mixed feelings are paralyzing. Usually I feel a split between what I believe I should say and what I really feel, and this makes me act like a fourteen year-old on a job interview, docile and polite and vague, and that makes me ashamed. (Though someone taught me this surprisingly useful phrase, which I like a lot: "I'm not sure. Let me think about that.")
I sense that your mixed feelings are stopping you from figuring out how to respond, so here are some ideas. Not answering is a very good response. Answering but evading is also good. A little tartness plus evading might make you feel happy too. You can say, "Are we checking references for boyfriends now? I didn't get the memo." You can say, "OMG, he put me off men completely. Is your friend cute?" If you feel generous you could simply say, "He has anger issues." You can say, "I thought he was married." You can say, "He was an asshole," or, "I did break up with him." Or you can say, "I'm pretty sure your friend can figure it out herself," because she can. Or you can say, "My New Year's resolution was not to gossip, but if your friend really wants to know, she can call me herself."
She won't call, believe me. In the end, I don't think there's much chance of actually being helpful to the bachelorette. Probably, the friend-of-a-friend is going to date this guy no matter what you say. You are not the first strong, intelligent woman to have loved an asshole and you won't be the last. You can't know that a guy is a cheater and liar until he cheats and lies, and the people who flee early are not necessarily inherently kick-ass strong womenfolk as much as they are the relatives of scary people and have been through it all before. In other words, a girl's gotta learn about this kind of thing through experience. I don't think there's a right thing to do here, but I don't think there's a wrong one either. It may feel like you're in the spotlight, but in this particular drama you are actually a bit player.
Are you a fan of David Foster Wallace?
I'm neutral. I like some stuff I've read, some stuff seems to try my patience a bit. I think I need to read Infinite Jest in order properly answer your question, and I've been afraid to because it's big and you have to flip to the footnotes. BUT: Infinite Jest is now four bucks at the Kindle store AND I excel at accidentally reading very long books on Kindle! Also, you click the footnotes, the footnotes appear. Problem solved.
Good take on Nick Carraway. I don't think he is gay (not that there's anything wrong with it). I see him as the soul so many of the other characters have neglected or lost. One of the best scenes in the movie, the old one, is when Nick refuses to shake Tom Buchannon's hand.
Thanks. I know, Nick is snooty. I've never seen the movie.
Stacey Richter, when can we expect a new written work (or for that matter any other artform) under your name? Or pseudonym.... Do you have something(s) in the works? I also wonder if you have ever taken up painting or singing or anything like that. Maybe a multi-media Stacey Richter 3-D videogame experience? I want to master the Stacey Richter videogame.
I don't know.
I was readin' around the meth alleys of Blogsville and someone done told that 'The Great Gatsby' narrator, Nick Carraway, is a big ol' flamin' queer-mo with an oily man-crush for his homie G-Gats. Proof being Nick-Nack's nitey-nite beddy-by meat-and-grease with an accumulater of Billie Holiday platters or some shizzit. What do you think? Is Nicky C. gay for Jay?
No. He doesn't even like Jay, I would say--he's too snobby right until the end, when he finally sees how fucked-up that is. That's when Nick yells to Gatsby that Daisy and her friends are a rotten crowd: "You're worth the whole damn bunch put together," he says, worth being the operative word, since this is a book about social class and money and how they're not the same thing.
BUT: I took a look at the book, and I do think a good case could be made for an interpretation of Nick as gay. The incident you're referring to above occurs, I think, at the end of chapter two, when Nick gets drunk in the city with Tom and his mistress. After Tom breaks Myrtle's nose, Nick scoots out with their neighbor, a photographer, who leaves without his wife. The brief, drunken vignettes that follow sure do have some homoerotic imagery in them: Nick ends up in the neighbor's apartment, standing beside the bed while the other guy sits between the sheets in his underwear showing him his BIG portfolio. And just before that, the elevator boy snaps at the photographer to, "Keep your hands off the lever," a lever which, if I were a Freudian-type, I'd paint neon-orange and call a phallus. Furthermore, there's a tradition in American fiction of the first-person narrator being a possibly-gay outsider--like Ishmael in Moby Dick, and like Ishmael, at the end Nick Carraway is the last man standing. Not to mention that there's a current of loneliness running through the book that reminds me of the loneliness of Winesburg, Ohio, which does seem to me to be about being gay, maybe because I'm under the impression that Sherwood Anderson was. Also, Nick himself doesn't seem to have any convincing romantic associations, or even friends, which could be code, in the era of the book, for gayness.
I don't think he's gay, however. I think the loneliness and disconnection stem from the strong and beloved themes of the book: the loneliness and disconnection of young men after the First World War, the drunken excesses of the flapper/bootlegger era--sexual and financial--and the growing disillusionment with the entangled ideas of race and origin and class. I attribute the homoerotic blips above to a little characteristic narrative wandering on Fitzgerald's part, and besides, why can't a man get drunk and talk to another man in his underwear without having sex with him? Seriously. What I'm saying is, I don't think Nick is gay, I think he's depressed. And he should be.
Also, given the times when the book was written, I would say that since Fitzgerald himself wasn't gay, neither is Nick. I just don't think he would have done that--he wouldn't have had the impulse, or empathy, or lack of prejudice to make his narrator a "queer-mo" as you so colorfully say. Nick is pretty sensitive though and might fall into the category of "art fag," the category from which I draw upon for boyfriends, and can therefore testify to as being not actually gay. Even if they do dress well. The end.
I stacked books on top of each other until the bottom book's pages fused together. The stack was 17 feet high. After stacking I placed a miniature rowboat upon the topmost book. The rowboat had tiny oars made of lemon slices. This was all done on a Thursday. So I ask you, why did I do it?
You did it for the same reason that Richard Dreyfuss built the Devil's Tower out of mud in Close Encounters of the Third Kind: there are towers; they need to be built. Sometimes they're made of mud, sometimes of caulk. To be the one called on to erect one is complicated but exciting. Congratulations.
Either that or you're just trying to make me say "erection."
if you were teaching high school english class, what book would you teach? you can pick any book even an unknown one. i think you have good opinions and i want to know. thankyou staceeee
It depends on the age of the students, and I'd have to read a couple of these again to make sure they didn't contain too much sex and drugs and suicide, but some books I'd like to teach are My Antonia by Willa Cather, The Stories of John Cheever (a selection, not all of them), Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, This Boys Life by Tobias Wolff, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez, The World of Normal Boys by K.M. Soehnlein, and The Ice Storm by Rick Moody.
I like the Stacey who posts photographs. I do not see any tattoos on your Oscar-holding arms. You have no tats? Hidden tats? What tat would you have if you had a tat? A cat? A bat? A marmosat? Do you have a day job Stacey? What sorts of jobs have you had? What was your worst job? Did you ever forget your billfold and have to wash dishes at the diner? Have you done landscaping or heavy lifting? Your photo indicates arm muscles.]]'']] Thank you Stacey.
Hi Vanya. So many questions! Let's focus on the arms. I think one reason they look so muscular is that those Oscar statues are extremely heavy. Easily they could be used to brain someone on the head until dead. Not that I would (or would not). I don't have any tattoos which is somewhat related to the day job, which I don't have for both happy and unhappy reasons, the unhappy one being that I hurt my back badly and irreparably 19 1/2 years ago. Though I'm not disabled (in part because I've never applied for disability), I did recently get a letter from the county telling me that I am permanently excused from jury duty, which is basically impossible, like being excused from airport security or something, and even more improbably seems to be the result of a very tart note I scrawled on my tenth or eleventh summons that said something like, "You can keep calling me twice a year if you want but I will never, ever be able to serve because my back is destroyed, basically, and I wish you would stop rubbing it in." It was that, or else they just drop you after ten doctor's notes. Anyway, when I told a gal in book club about it I began to cry, which besides being embarrassing seemed to indicate that I believed the jury excuse had bestowed some kind of tiara of disability on me, though maybe I'd just had too much wine. Usually I don't like to go on and on about this but I don't want to be secretive either since pain is a defining fact of my life on a day-to-day basis, which is why I thought that for the 20th anniversary of my injury, I might get a giant, beautiful tattoo all over my back and torso and down the dermatomes of my legs and feet of the life cycle of a plant in the style of a botanical drawing: roots, flowers, seeds; growing, wilting, being reborn--isn't everyone's tattoo about that? Either that or Jackson Pollock loops and splotches running all down me. I'm not sure if this will actually happen.
I have never professionally landscaped but I like to plant plants and dig holes, though that's probably not the best activity for me. I have a small, fur-covered cat who believes my job is to accompany her on her food bowl viewings, which occur every half hour.
Howdy there miss Staceykins, indulge my curiosity but can you tell me about your brushes with fame? Whom did you meet or rub shoulders with? Have you ever made out with a famous celebrity or a group thereof?
Hi Valerie. I've never made out with a group of celebrities--I wish!--but I once had dream-sex with Tom Cruise, in a church, and I'd do it again. Other than that, the most notorious charmer I've met is Ray Evans of the song-writing team Livingston and Evans, who wrote such standards as "Silver Bells," "Bonanza," and the theme to Mr. Ed. That's right, Ray penned the brilliant line, "A horse is a horse/ Of course, of course," which is almost as wonderful as my beloved, "One fish, two fish/Red fish, blue fish." Ray was a mad flirt (sadly, he's passed away) but we never got to make out. He did, however, let me hold his three big, heavy Oscars.
DEAREST STACEY OF THE RICHTER CLAN: WHAT IS THE MOST OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVEST THINGY YOU HAVE EVER DONE DID?
I guess getting out of bed to check the iron, finding it's off, then getting back in bed and deciding I have to get up again and go touch it and be sure it's really off, then getting to the doorway before turning around and checking one more time, then going back to bed and getting up to check all the doors (though in general I am a fire-checker), then thinking I should cry but not crying. In the grand scheme of things, I've decided that isn't really that bad. I only do it now and then, and only because I actually do leave things on and burning and unattended. I don't actually have OCD. Oh sure, I do count everything, all the time, footsteps and so on, but that's just to for amusement purposes.