Two Weeks Later...
How does a normally shy, self-effacing person who has just had her most guarded emotions and painful life experiences read by several thousands of people feel, exactly?
Part of me feels really liberated. When people ask me what most motivated me to write all this, I say that I was sick and tired of carrying "shame" around with me. For example, my broken vagina (it always comes back to broken vagina). After I had the accident I was caught between an intense need to talk to people about it -- or at least admit to what had happened -- and the "shame" over the intimate nature of the incident and the need to cover it up. So I would use coy phrases like "sudden unexplained internal hemmorage" or "tonsilitis" to explain away the last week where I was down several liters of blood and wasn't seeing any visitors.
But you can't call "broken vagina" tonsilitis. If the reader carries nothing else away with them from this blog, it is this.
*** *** ***
On the first date I have with this new guy, I tell him about broken vagina. I think that's reasonable. It's like a litmus test. You have the grace period where you are first chatting on the phone, getting to know someone, and then you meet up and at some point you say "broken vagina" and if they stay, you have a keeper.
One of the first questions I ask him over dinner is if he is familiar with comics at all. People who aren't familiar with comics will usually answer something like "Well, I've seen Spiderman 2." Which is what he said. Then he asked me if anything interesting happened in the intervening two weeks since we last saw each other.
By the time we are downing the tiramisu he asks,
"Will this be in your blog?"
"Well I don't know. Do you want this to be in the blog?"
"I don't know...I mean, what part will I play?"
Having dinner with him, I feel like a princess. It's a classy joint. My date is very animated and dramatic and holds court with the maitre'd and waitresses. Plus, he's ok with broken vagina. And I am just so tickled and flattered and I do this Drew Barrymore move where I sort of look demure and giggle and bend my mouth in a way that is both sweet and looks like a stroke victim.
The check turns out to be like $150. Which, I suppose is what you get for dining in a place that provides you not only with mouthwash in the restrooms but a selection of tampons in a crystal decanter. I feel awkward, like I should really chip in. By this point, we have somehow downed two bottles of shiraz and when I get up to put on my coat I realize I am bombed.
I try dialing my mom so maybe I can crash at her place in Manhattan. But she doesn't answer the phone. In about 15 minutes I'm on a train with my date to someplace.
*** *** ***
The critics of my memoir fall into several different camps. There is the "there is no correlation between sexually violent and exploitative female images in entertainment and the ill treatment of women" contingent. Though I do not propose any sort of "comics code" or censorship and have a degree of respect & admiration for artists such as Wally Wood, Adam Hughes, and Frank Cho, I think such a blanket viewpoint is a bit naive. Certainly there is at least the faintest, tiniest relationship between the Image and the Attitude; the image influencing the attitude, or the attitude reflected in the produced image.
Then there is the "this is a flawed feminist treatise" crowd, who points out, among other things, my ambivalence over cheesecake art and my occasionally crude speech pattern as undermining my Cause. I suppose that my answer would be, I had no specific Cause in writing the memoir, no set list of talking points I wished to win the debate club with. This was, in the end, the story of a Life. Here are the elements, here are my emotions, and here is a No. 2 pencil -- draw what conclusions or connections you would like.
Of course, there is the small but wizened crew who feel that the narrative, as one Metafilter "tag" described it, is "batshitinsane." Well, surely it is a fucked up tale of vaginal bleeding, rape pages, lesbian Ice Maidens, and bipolar body-building patriarchs. Also, I realize that something like this blog, in terms of the comic industry, is somewhat of a mutant shitstorm. And, to many of those who knew me personally, the act of writing the material and having the stones to post it is pretty damn near jawdropping. Well. Batshitinsane, huh? I guess it makes life at least more interesting, if nothing else. Beats being a mild-mannered ad-copy writer for a major metropolitan blah-blah-blah my whole life. Life is short -- let's say what we have to say, live the way we have to live, and grab existence by the cojones, batshit or not.
As for those who consider the memoir nothing more than just another "disgruntled employee rant"...gosh, I don't know what to say to that. Other than that we must remember that Peter Parker was the original disgruntled employee. Wasn't that issue where J. Jonah told him "I really like brunettes with spit-curls" the one where they had to take the Code off the cover?
But the critique of "Goodbye to Comics" that I do have to sit up and take notice of is the one about participating in the prolonging of the cycle of exploitation. Because as much as reading that critique makes me cringe, it is ultimately true. Having seen it from the inside, however, I have to say it is not so easy as a positive-thinking guru or several sessions with a Scientologist would have you believe. But in the end, our Will and self-respect is all we have.
*** *** ***
So now I'm drunk, drowsy, and in another man's bedroom on the first date. The crucial mistake was obviously somewhere back at the restaurant, doing the Drew Barrymore thing, having a good time, and losing track of how many glasses of shiraz I was consuming. Classic, classic fuck-up -- I mean, high-school level shit. Great.
Not that the guy is hard on the eyes or anything. But after my adventures with broken vagina and just contemplating issues of self-respect and whatnot -- I just don't want to jump in with having sex on the first date. But somewhere between him lending me his contact lens case and us falling to sleep an hour or so later, there is a lot of foreplay. And a degree of fiveplay. The dude is fit and lean and really into yoga; at one point I am standing on my head.
But I really don't want to have full-on sex right now. But here I already put myself in an extremely compromising situation. Now I'm feeling pressure to have sex with him on many fronts, most of them solely residing in my mind. A) He just spent $150 on the meal. B) I'm tired and drowsy and maybe this would just be easier. C) I feel if I don't have sex with him now he'll resent and hate me. D) By all intents and purposes I've kind of really placed myself in this position, and have only myself to blame anyway so why not?
Eventually, I say "no." No, we are not having sex now; yes, I know I put myself in this compromising position but no I am not having sex with you now because I don't feel ready.
I've never really took a stand like that before. I mean, ever.
And he understood and it was ok.
And one thing he said right before we went to sleep really stuck with me.
"You have a beautiful vagina."
*** *** ***
So what have we learned today, boys and girls?
1) I can stand on my head
2) Peter Parker was the original disgruntled employee
3) The classiest joints have mouthwash and tampons in a crystal decanter
But keep track of the shiraz.