Chimera Song Mosaic
Friday, March 05, 2004
I turned around and faced Lance and spoke this dread outloud to him; he just laughed.
Then I said, “I am so glad you know what I mean!”
I have been moving around a lot these past years since college; every two or three years, I completely relocate. This makes my outing less of a danger. However, now I have been living here for four years, and it is increasingly harder to bite my tongue, to keep up my “pretty” persona.
Sometimes I say this to me friends, and they say, “You? No! You’re so nice!”
The truth is, I’m not nice. But I have been working on it since my senior year in high school when I realized that very few people can get away with embodying the Byronic Hero. Also, I didn’t want to get away with it—I wanted to be a nice person, to love my family, to say, “Bless you!” when someone sneezes, to hold the elevator door, open. (These last few are particularly cunning and fool pretty much everybody.)
I think my cathartic dream is the result of a couple of things: reading Frankenstein and criticisms (of course, examining Byron also obliquely); my students asking today if I support gay marriages, and instead of dodging the question, instead of keeping up the preferable, nonjudgmental, nondenominational, seeker-of-knowledge, fair argument, and interesting possibilities-type-of-teacher, I just thought, “Why lie?” and said, “Yes.” This was followed by a rather pathetic qualifier: “I think everyone should be able to get married to whomever they want,” that probably did very little in the way of convincing my students to consider my point of view. I would go into damage control mode on Monday, but today begins, let me say this correctly . . . SPRING BREAK! so I have to wait until a week or so from now, when they will have probably forgotten all about me. I feel too much: every essay about raising a child with cerebral palsy; a family suffering through a six-year-old’s brain cancer; a virgin’s horror of vaginal hemorrhaging almost to the point of death; a first person narrative of having one’s throat mauled by the family dog, only to immediately realize that animals should be respected and treated humanely—I feel every one of them, and I can’t keep them out of my head. I feel like I am responsible for these students’ tolerances and prejudices and (yes) votes. Can you imagine the colossal self-importance I must be feeling as a teacher? This is where the Byronic Hero comes in, and yes, where and why I need to stop teaching.
But the idea of my close friends outing me is really scary. They are my intellectual and poetical support networks. My dream was such a clear-cut vignette of fraud: in a workshop at my home, one “teacher” underlined a word randomly in my copy of Frankenstein, and everyone was asked to come up with an analysis based on that word (I can’t remember my actual word, and I think it wasn’t even a real word, perhaps). Very quickly, I came up with a response, not too profound, but not too sketchy, either. It seemed to be more of a response geared to garner praise rather than to increase scholarship or wonder (hopefully I don’t write poetry that way, but you know . . .). Unfortunately, I didn’t explain it very well, and I think someone interrupted me before I could finish. I flew into a rage; I demanded that everyone leave my house. It seems that in my paranoia at being discovered a fraud, I turned into a monster. Or to phrase this another way: the monster is maybe not dependent on my temper, but rather my insecurity.
Or it could be another thing: since I have stopped taking birth control pills, I have had a little harder time controlling my temper, hiding what I don’t want people to see (as Byron never would, but since I am not a very beautiful person, incredibly rich, or phenomenally famous, I’d better watch myself). I feel particularly edgy before my period. But it might not be this because I have never, unlike my poor student, had any troubles relating to my cycle—no cramps, no patterns of headaches--things are pretty regular. Not one to jump to conclusions (ideally), I have also been restricting my diet—no refined sugar or sugary things. Lack of sugar is making me a little bit mean!
But I don’t care; I always write my best poems in the spring time, and I have most of the rest of the semester’s grading spaced out pretty well and will make time for poems. This is the last week of my 20s. Bye-bye.