Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Sucker-free countdown

When I try to figure out why I am the way I am, I remember head trauma. Not head-case kinda trauma, I mean literal head injury.

The first that sort of comes to mind is the wiffle ball bat incident. Remember the wiffle ball? It was a tough, plastic, hollow ball with holes perforated all over. You could hit it hard, but it wouldn’t go terribly far—perfect for backyard ball games. The wiffle bat was yellow, long, hard plastic, but skinnier than a traditional baseball bat. And I’m talking rigidly hard plastic. These were no Fisher-Price squishy plastic toys, this was old-school, from way back in the days where weapons masqueraded as toys (remember "jarts”?).

I must have been between 10 or 12 years old, and, somehow, my brother persuaded me that if I stood really still, he would hit a wiffle ball from off the top of my head. My memory of this whole incident is shaky, so I recall only what I groggily recorded. My brother pulled back hard, grimacing, not like an “I’m gonna give the ball a little tap” kinda look, more, “I’m knockin this thing to the smithereens.” And I got scared. Rightly so. This kid was aiming a hard plastic bat at my head. And as I also foggily recall, there may have been a yo-yo to the head incident in the recent past as well to spook me.

I guess I didn’t do the smart thing and duck. I guess I did something stupid, like jump up on my feet, because the next thing I knew I couldn’t see straight and I was stumbling around. I don’t even remember the pain I was hit so hard. I remember holding my head and temporary vision loss, and staggering drunkenly. I couldn’t speak. I remember my brother tenderly putting his arms near me and saying, “Are you all right?” and I couldn’t answer.

Then I remember the hallmark of any family injury: “Don’t tell Mom, OK? Please don’t tell mom!”

But I still don’t remember being able to speak. I remember holding my poor, precious head, my vision swimming back to normal, and standing in stunned silence. My little sister stopped doing whatever pretend gymnastics she was doing, and just stared at me. And then HE got mad at ME. “It wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t moved! It was your fault!” And so on, displacing blame.

I don’t remember anything after that about what we told mom or if I was given an ice pack. I don’t remember if I cried or just sat in the grass, unable to speak. This entry would have more dramatic purpose if I could manufacture what came next, but this isn’t fiction, and all I remember is speechlessness.

What I do remember is that I always went in for these stunts. Any time the opportunity arose to knock something off my head or throw something hard really near my head, I went for it. I’m the sucker. I’d have done anything for those few precious moments of my brother’s undivided attention.

Crickets again

I've been working on this in my spare time, and it rules. But it's taking my creative brain power a little away from the blog. Just temporary like, so don't be hurt or sad, I won't be away long.

I'm also going to see the fam in Kentucky for a long weekend. That usually brings up some good blog juice.

Hugs babies,
Christine Wy

Monday, February 26, 2007

Us tortured souls

I feared fiction writing as an undergrad—even as a high school student. Those kids had it so together, smoking Clove cigarettes or Camels, waving their hands against the tapestry of their rumpled clothes. They were assured, positive that they were brilliant and alive, and, me, I felt intimidation and insecurity, and held them to me like Linus’ blue blanket.

Graduate school was worse. I went to a good school, a good English program, but I fell through the cracks. I watched all my sparkly peers get endorsements and encouragement and thesis help from the top professors. I watched them laugh together over literary theory. I watched the back claps and the promises of letters of recommendation and career advice.

When I asked for a letter of recommendation, I was asked, “Who are you again? Can you resubmit the papers you wrote for my class with my comments on them?” No career advice. No back claps. I just never fit into that program for some reason.

And I rebelled against it. I dyed my hair pink, I pierced my nose and my lip, “You won’t let me in your secret society? I’ll give you a reason not to let me in your secret society.”

Amazingly, at the very end of my very last semester there, the leader of the cool clique said to me, “You’re obviously intelligent, what did you think of last night’s reading?” And I was in. For two whole weeks, I was in the in crowd, because he said so, he acknowledged me. I hated him more than when I hated him from keeping me out. And besides, he was just pumping me for information because he didn’t do the homework.

The English Department elitism kept me out of fiction for fear that my insecurities would be discovered. I’d never wave my cigarette right; I’d never have the intentionally careless wardrobe or the signature all black clothing. I liked flowers and nature and Walt Whitman, not bridges to nowhere and Camus (who they never understood anyway).

Now I’m making up for it. Now that I understand they were never that casually brilliant themselves, that I was never as inadequate as I feared, I’m making up for lost time.

I meant this blog post to be an outline of my self-taught fiction process, but it’s become my own manifesto. I get Camus. I get Whitman. I get broken bridges and flowering trees. I didn’t need the in crowd to teach me what I already know, I only needed the courage to see what I have inside.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Making Up

It was pretty passive-aggressive* of me to post about how mad I was at Matthew in the middle of the night while he was sleeping, but I had to get it off my chest, cause it just hurt like a weight. Getting made up to was perfect though. He went out last night and scraped the snow off my car so I wouldn't have to do it this morning. That's love, scraping snow and ice in the middle of the night.

*A disorder no longer recognized by the DSM.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Crisis of conscience

We just left home karaoke at our friend’s house in Blue Island. I was driving, we were tired, and I wanted a little reassurance.

“How’d I do tonight?” I asked.

Matthew was quiet for a bit.

“Honey, we both suck but we have fun.”

I felt my heart sink and my throat get a little woozy. “Suck” was news to me.

Anyone who’s heard me sing a cappella will indeed tell you I’m terrible. I need a band, I need back-up, I need tonal supervision, and I project best into a microphone. I was always in church choir and lauded for my voice, and, every time I’ve sung karaoke, I’ve been congratulated on my singing. Real congratulations, not sympathy congrats like you give to your losing opponents in little league, not just, “good job,” and a fake grip-n-grin. People have looked for me when I’ve sung karaoke in bars and said, “You did great with the Go-Go’s.” Who would lie about that?

But I’ve just been told, “Honey, we both suck but we have fun.”

I asked him, “No one’s ever told me I’m bad at karaoke. Are you really saying I’m bad at karaoke?”

“We had fun, and that’s what matters.”

No, that isn’t all that matters. A lifetime of compliments on my stage performance has just been questioned for the first time ever.

“Matthew, everyone’s told me I sing well at karaoke.”

“Well, who are you going to believe? Them or me?” he asked, half-asleep already.

“Your opinion is the one that matters most to me,” hoping for the affirmation, hoping he’d change his mind or at least fake it a little.


My evening of fun, competent, group singing felt undone. I questioned every note I’d sung. Was it when I couldn’t get the low notes in “Rio” by Duran Duran? Was it because I didn’t know all the words to “Mirror in the bathroom”? Did I sing the girl parts too loud on “Love Shack”?

What about the last time I sang karaoke? Was it my rendition of Melanie’s “Roller skates”? She sang it funny herself, she warbled and squealed, so I warbled and squealed. Was that bad?

All I really wanted to be told was that I performed adequately. I know I’m not Melanie. I know I’m not Belinda Carlisle. I definitely know I’m not Simon Le Bon. I just wanted to know that I didn’t suck, that I had a good time and didn’t suck.

At least I had the best microphone.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Feeling a little left out

Family Wy discovered some new issues to work on in group therapy. Abandonment. We’re having abandonment issues.

Matthew, Dr. Wy, was away for a week on business. While this was all fine and dandy for Blanche DuBois at first, since I let her eat food off the floor and let her smell things on walks longer than her father allows her, Blanche had a turning point where she just missed her Daddy.

All sudden-like, Miss Blanche just would not go into her crate.

For two years, when asked to go to her crate, Blanche DuBois would walk into her crate, sit down, and watch you lock the door. No problem. Sometimes she was rewarded with a treat, sometimes she got only a “Good girl!” but she always went into the crate.

Dr. Wy, you see, works from home many days of the week. His unconventional schedule means that Blanche has lots of time to just lay on the couch or loll dutifully at his feet while he grades papers. But during the Dr’s absence, Miss Blanche had to abide by my draconian schedule, wherein I work from nine-to-five daily, and thereby Miss Blanche is locked in the crate during the day.

By the end of Matthew’s business trip, Blanche just would not go into the crate. I guess she missed her time with her Daddy that much and was tired of being locked away. She would go to the other room and lay limp in a dead weight pose and just sulk. There was no getting her into the crate unless extra-large, extra-chewy, extra-special treats were used as an enticement.

This went on through the first night of Dr. Wy’s return. Dear husband came home, and we were ready to go out for a “welcome home” dinner, and Blanche just would not go into the crate.

I told Matthew, “She’s been doing this all week.”

She went all limp and squishy, and Matthew went Alpha Male on her.

“Blanche! Crate!” He growled, pointing where she was to go.

Instead she crawled, belly on the ground, to the kitchen, and cowered on the floor.

Matthew marched to the kitchen, “Blanche! Crate!”

She wriggled a few feet closer to the crate, but would not go.

As a last resort, she was bodily lifted and placed into the crate.

Locking our apartment door behind us and stepping away, we heard the unmistakable, glass-rattling baritone of a betrayed, full-blooded basset hound howling, full tilt, for all the world to know her angst.

Separation anxiety. Matthew was gone so long, our sweet floppy basset developed separation anxiety.

And now we know we can never divorce because the dog would go nuts.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Take out the papers and the trash

Coincidentally, the most famous blogger on the planet earth and I made the same New Year's resolution, our only resolution: to throw away more things. I guess she could have resolved something private that she didn't blog about, like to pick her nose less, but I don't know for sure. What I know for sure is that I resolved to throw more things away.

That's it. New Year's Eve, lying in bed, listening to my neighbors shout about how drunk and horny they are into my bedroom window from their exclusive roof deck, I decided, "I will throw away more things this year."

I'm a hoarder. Technically I haven't crossed the line into the clinical sense of hoarding, but it's a fine line for me and I try to test it with my big toe sometimes. Example: for a long time, like feud-length time, Matthew and I had this fight over the garbage can.

"Why do you always leave garbage on the counter next to the sink?"

"I don't know!" (I get really defensive over nothing in these confrontations and always end up shouting.)

"We have a small kitchen; the garbage can is five feet away."

"So! I don't want to walk over there!"

"It's five feet," he explained calmly. "Just try, OK?"

"All right, I'll work on it."

Weeks later:

"Why do you always leave garbage on the stove?"

"I might need to use it later!"

"For what?"

"I could use that half-used paper towel to wipe up something else!"

"But what about this milk ring? You aren't using that for anything else."

Me, shouting more, "But it's almost to the garbage can! See, I've gotten better! It's closer to the garbage can!"

"But the garbage can is right next to the stove. It's one more foot. You're already at the stove, why can't you reach into the garbage can?"

"But I'm better than when I left it at the counter!!!"

After months of garbage can negotiations, I can conscientiously look at a piece of garbage and say to myself, "That goes in the garbage can," and I'll actually do it. I'll actually place garbage in the can. This is huge for me, considering I let my junk mail pile up all over the living room and then go through it all at once every other month (that's being generous, it isn't that often), and finally throw it all away. When I clean up, I end up with six bags of garbage, instead of filling them gradually like someone who doesn't hoard would do.

My first step toward realizing my New Year's resolution was to clean out my backpack. As a librarian, I'm always photocopying random bits that I think are interesting then shove them in my backpack. There they ferment into vertically squished pulpy mishmashes that have no educational purpose any longer and, specifically, no reference to my life any longer.

So here it is, the result of the backpack purge:

Winter 2007 001

The "purple" faux Birkenstocks, no matter how nasty they look, are not actually part of the purge. I'll die with those nasty things stuck to my feet. Literally. They stick to my feet and they have no grip left. I could fall and break my head on garbage at any moment.

And, for the cutie-pie version of the clean-up, here's my beloved basset Blanche helping with the fun:

Winter 2007 003


Ever onward. Now I'm going to go throw away some food.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A foreigner everywhere

“Ever since then I have believed that God is not only a gentleman and a sport, he is a Kentuckian too.” The Sound and the Fury

Only a Kentuckian—or someone who understands Kentuckians deeply—understands Faulkner’s quote. I saw the quote misused by a Kentucky militiaman, though, so maybe that de-bunks the theory, but, really, it takes some knowing Kentucky to get your mind around that one.

When misused, the militiaman from Fort Knox meant that it is an upstanding and prideful thing to be a Kentuckian, which it is, but that’s not all there is to it.

Kentuckians are contrary. We want to be called Hillbillies when it’s convenient, and, by God, we’ll load our double-ought shot gun and level it at your head if you call us one when the time ain’t right.

If God were a Kentuckian, he’d play both sides of the Civil War (which we did). If God were a Kentuckian, he’d hate his brethren and outsiders with the same vehemence, while embracing them tightly and offering them sweet tea and time to sit down a spell (which we do). If God were a Kentuckian, he’d be suspicious and wary of even his favorite neighbor, but he’d trust his governor to lead him to salvation directly without once questioning the plague of nepotism or patronage.

I do not intend to insult God or Kentuckians, but do you see the pattern here? Kentuckians are contrary deep in their blood. They’re cool and breezy and casual, but deadly serious about horse racing and corvettes, race relations and patriarchal lineage.

I’m from Louisville, Kentucky, an island of society that belongs nowhere. Louisville won’t have a thing to do with the rest of the state because “we’re not like those hillbillies.” And the rest of Kentucky won’t have a thing to do with Louisville because “they’re not like us hillbillies.” And the rest of the country regards Louisville squarely as part of Kentucky, which it isn’t, and so it belongs nowhere. Sovereign to nothing.

Louisvillians resent everyone but other Louisvillians because they can’t trust that an outsider will understand how precious it is to be a Louisvillian by birth. Louisville is the cultured, tasteful, polite and sophisticated spot in the morass of Hatfields and McCoys and Muhlenberg Counties. Someone from Ohio once said to me, smiling broadly, “Ah, Louisville, the gem of Kentucky.” No one had ever surmised my hometown so succinctly in my life. A gem, yes, but still, a gem of Kentucky soil, tainted both by its heart’s wish to be perceived as untainted and its desire to belong to the rest of state—when it wants to.

Outside Kentucky, distinctions of Louisvillian or Kentuckian are meaningless. When I moved out of state in 1998, I always said, “I’m from Kentucky, but not that part of Kentucky.” After years of trying to explain that I am a gem of Kentucky, I have learned to accept my contrary identity and say just, “I am from Kentucky.”

But, just like Faulkner’s God, I’m still a charlatan. When it’s convenient, I still pretend to be a hillbilly and a descendant of bluegrass fiddlers. My husband always says, “But you’re not from that part of Kentucky.” He’s right. I’m not. But I am this time because I say so.

I’m from nowhere and I’m from everywhere because my home is from nowhere and from everywhere. It is everywhere worth knowing to a Lousivillian, and nowhere worth knowing to a Kentuckian. In the South, I’m suspiciously northern. In the North, I’m suspiciously Southern. In the Midwest, I’m just a rube, a hillbilly come to Chicago.

And so Faulkner’s God is a Kentuckian. A sophisticate, a backwoods dirt farmer; urbane, hillbilly; suspicious, accomodating. From everywhere, from nowhere. Contrary.

Addendum 2/22/07: It also means God has a perverse and possibly cruel sense of humor, but that's just too long a post to explain. Take my word for it, M-kay?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Sibling rivalry

I grew up an angry, pissed-off little kid, but only when I wasn’t a fun, creative, outgoing kid. I guess I had two settings: angry and charming.

My sister always pushed me over the edge into angry kid land. She didn’t mean to do it, it wasn’t even anything that she did, but boy oh did she trigger some crazy emotions in me.

Everyone—EVERYONE—aunts, cousins, my mom’s co-workers—everyone told me how adorable my cute little sister was. “Oh, your sister is SO cute!” All the time. They even had a tiny child’s sized wicker chair at my mom’s work, and all the ladies said, “That’s little sister’s chair! Isn’t she so CUTE in her little chair?”

That was my chair. Before it was little sister’s chair, it was my chair. But no one ever told me how cute I looked in the miniature wicker chair.

I remember that when she would get out of the chair, I would go and sit in it, hoping to get noticed and told how cute I was. I only wanted to be cute, too, like little sister. But no one ever said a peep about cute. I got stern warnings: “You’re too big for that chair, be careful or you’ll break it.”

I hated her for getting all of the petting and the cooing and the cute-ing. It made me feel invisible when she was around: “Wait! The cute one’s here; we can start talking about how cute she is! Awww!”

Instead, I made hiding places. I crawled all over the store where my mom worked, sneaking underneath the clothing racks. I made it my goal to get from one room to the next by crawling under clothes and never being detected. If I were invisible from not cute-ness, then it could be a game to test the real limits of my invisibility, right?

My ultimate destination as I crawled through the store on my hands and knees, following under trails of trellised clothing, was reaching the dressing room. The dressing room sat in the center of the store, an irrationally huge octagon with giant mirrors on three walls. I’d sneak through the store, invisible, and burst into the empty dressing room, twirling like a ballerina on a stage. The overhead lights were my spotlights, and the mirrors were my audience, as I danced and sang and pretended to be admired by throngs of mirror-Christines staring back at me.

Eventually, I had to come out of the dressing room, walking down the aisle of shoes, slowly melting out of my dream world. Eventually, I became plain old Christine again—not cute Christine or Christine and her little chair. Just invisible, ugly Christine.

I grew up hating my body and hating the way I looked. I hated that I never had the right haircut or the right clothes and that my boobs were too small and my nose was too big. And I hated that my sister glided through life on the sound or rustling gossamer, so perfect and cute, with her own chair and everything.

In our twenties, sitting at my parents’ house, I said to my sister, “You know, I was always so jealous of you.”

“God, why?” she asked, incredulous.

“All the time when we were growing up, people told me how cute you were, over and over.”

She looked amazed, “Are you serious? Everyone told me how beautiful you were!”

“What? No one ever told me that!”

“Well no one ever told me I was cute either!”

We learned that night that we shared a lifetime of disappointment in ourselves. But, starting that night, we shared a different disappointment, not the disappointment that the other was perfect but that we were flawed, but the disappointment that we hated each other all those years for something that didn’t exist, and we hated that no one had the courage to say to each of us, “You’re both beautiful girls.”

Monday, February 19, 2007

Poor thing, she tried so hard

I just saw the least nonchalant outfit I’ve seen in weeks. It screamed “intentional” all over the place.

A petite woman, she wore a vintage-inspired aqua green and white print short-sleeved blouse. The un-tucked blouse draped over a black below-the-knee a-line skirt, and, over the combo, a wide burgundy red leather belt cinched her waist. Matching, on her feet, she wore burgundy red stiletto slouch boots in which she wasn’t walking very well.

As she tottered away, slowly, her shoes flashed me: she forgot to take the white “Made in China” stickers off the soles of her boots.

Precarious image ruined. And I bet her feet were killing her.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Reading trashy fiction so you don't have to

OK, so, ridiculous free book time again. How to Be a Hollywood Star: Your Guide to Living the Fabulous Life. It’s funny, like that Hipster Handbook that was so hilarious, what, five years ago? This book is the same and opposite: it instructs you on how to be as pretentious as possible (same), but with social paragon status (opposite (maybe?)).

Anyway, here’s an insightful clip I think could help anyone:

Star Question: Who Is My Friend?

Call before dropping by
Don’t talk about your work
Tell you when you’ve put on weight
Don’t borrow money
Like your mom
Get mad at you on occasion
Jump out and fill up the gas tank
Encourage you to cut back on caffeine
Offer to watch your kids
Proudly tell their other friends that they know you

Never leave
Want to know every detail
Say you look great
Don’t borrow money (because they expect you to just give it to them)
Hate your family
Offer nothing but praise
Moan about self-serve pumps
Borrow your Starbucks card
Talk down to your nanny
Tattoo your initials on their neck

I think the most important thing I've taken away from How to Be a Hollywood Star is to remember to live by the "Real Friends" column. Except for the "tell you when you've gained weight" thing. Unless you really are in Hollywood, no one needs to hear that.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


She stroked the heart-spotted cellophane wrapper, using one finger, gently caressing the Valentine’s cookies with a single touch. She turned an about-face and marched off briskly, thin lips determined.

I know that feeling: resist what goes to the hips. But I always surrender to the dessert table, giving my heart, Valentines or no.

The story of Team Wy

Matthew and I met, small town, college bar, our eyes locked across the smoky tavern, and we felt the instant magnetism of destiny….

No, not at all like that.

My friend called me up, “Hey, I just got this new roommate, and I think you two should date. His name’s Matthew Wy and I think he’s a computer science major.”


She set up a party at her house, and made sure I knew to look for him and flirt. It was college, of course, so it had to be a theme party. We riffed on the CK1 black and white ads that were plastered everywhere at the time, and we posed in skimpy clothes with tousled hair, trying to look as emaciated and drugged-out as the models in the ads did. My friend photographed the whole thing, and the stills turned out hilarious.

And then Matthew entered the room. Even though he had a girl I disliked draped all over him, desperately trying to claim him as her own, even though he was totally detached from her, I took one look at him and said, “I’m going to date him.” I just knew right away. I just didn’t know how hard it would be.

To mock the CK1 ads, where all the models looked strung out on heroin, another friend and I posed as junkies. She lolled back in a chair with a belt cinched around her arm above the elbow, and I sat beside her holding a spoon and looking into her eyes desperately.

In the corner, Matthew turned around to face the wall, and the flingy girl said, “Oh god that is SO tasteless.”

I ignored them.

After the photo shoot, I found Matthew sitting alone on the couch, smoking. I was ready with conversation points to get the ball rolling on our new relationship.

“Hey, I heard you were friends with Heather M. She’s totally one of my best friends and she told me how cool you are.”

Matthew: exhaled smoke, head turned away from me, muttered, “Mm-hm.”

OK, I was a little daunted, but willing to go on.

“I also heard you worked at the record store. Guess what? I’m friends with James W. who’s there too. Are you guys friends too?”

Matthew: exhaled smoke, head turned away from me, muttered, “Mm-hm.”

A third question, I don’t remember, met with the same response--Matthew: exhaled smoke, head turned away from me, muttered, “Mm-hm.”

I began to feel really humiliated that I was reaching out to this guy who was supposed to be my blind date, who was the object of obsession of a silly and careless girl I barely tolerated, and he was completely ignoring me, not even making eye contact.

I did the rudest thing a Southern girl could do. I got up and walked away without saying goodbye.

(Of course, he’s from Pennsylvania, so he had no idea how much I had just slighted him.)

I kept seeing him at my friend’s house, and we continued to be cold to one another, until one day I found him eating my ice cream.

Dorm freezers couldn’t fit a carton of ice cream, so I took my Edy’s chocolate chip cookie dough to my friend’s house to keep in her full-size freezer. I came over to eat some ice cream, and there he was, eating it by the spoonful out of the carton. I was a little put off, but I still knew that I would date him some day, so I had to make nice about sharing my ice cream. I grabbed a spoon,

“Hey, that’s my ice cream! I’m glad someone else is eating it because I never could have finished it on my own.”

“Oh. I wondered whose it was.”

In the kitchen, he was with a new, silly, hanger-on type of girl that he still wasn’t very interested in and my friend. The two girls ended up talking, bored with each other already, while Matthew and I ate ice cream. We had our first real conversation ever, and we both managed to genuinely feel good toward each other.

As luck would have it, there was another party at my friend’s house that weekend, and intermittently we chatted companionably again. I asked him to go to a very important private party that my English classmates were throwing the next weekend, and he said yes.

But that’s not where our relationship really began.

The day after my friend’s party happened to be Valentine’s Day. The photo-journalism department hosted an anti-Valentine’s Day ‘80’s themed party. I attended with my photo-journalism friends dressed in tight, torn jeans, a plaid shirt tied at the waist, and I painted my face with dashes of hot pink blush and blue eye shadow. It wasn’t a perfect outfit, but it was close enough. We danced to 80’s tunes, doing the running man and some new wave kind of shimmies.

My friends decided we should leave and go to another party that was supposed to be cooler. In the meantime, I had drunk enough to forget I was wearing tight, torn jeans, a plaid shirt tied at the waist and dashes of hot pink blush and blue eye shadow. We arrived at the new party, a more drug, hipster, drop-out themed party, and everyone stopped talking and stared at me. I felt self-conscious, so I worked my way further and further into the house to get away from people staring at me. In the final room, there, in the center of the kitchen, perched on the only bar stool, directly under the overhead light, sat Matthew, smoking a cigarette. My face lit up: now the night was worth the partying.

We talked and talked like people finding each other’s edges do, and we loved that in the party we were alone, laughing, enjoying each other’s jokes, while everyone else provided scenery to our little world.

I excused myself to go to the restroom, high on that flirtation buzz, and I looked in the mirror. I was wearing tight, torn jeans, a plaid shirt tied at the waist, and dashes of hot pink blush and blue eye shadow. No wonder everyone looked at me so weird! I untied my shirt and rubbed off my makeup, but, in front of this guy I knew I would date, I was humiliated again.

“Oh my god, Matthew! I was just at an ‘80’s party, I swear! I totally forgot I looked like this!”

“Yeah, I kinda wondered about the outfit.”

Instantly, distant, cool Matthew morphed into someone who accepted that I would show up to a party looking crazy weird, and still talk to me all night. He didn’t care about the hot pink blush streaks and the torn jeans, he just wanted to talk to me.

I took him back to my dorm room that night, and we sat up drinking hot tea and listening to Frank Sinatra until 4 am. When I drove him home, I gave him a sweet peck on the cheek.

We’ve been together ever since, every day. And this Valentine’s Day marks the tenth anniversary of that night of hot pink blush, hot tea, and smokin’ Sinatra.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Matthew.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Love letters

Dear husband Matthew, I'm sorry you were sad when you read Dream Entry #5 because of how much I talked about being happy and in love I with Ralph Macchio, Dwayne Johnson, and Alec Baldwin. I know you wanted me to say more about how much I love you and how happy I really am with you.

Matthew, I have a guitar, but I don’t know how to play it. I was going to learn to play your favorite song to surprise you when you got back from your business trip, but it’s not going very well so that whole romantic gesture thing might just be empty promises. But I tried.

Matthew, I never played guitar for Ralph Macchio, Dwayne Johnson, or Alec Baldwin--only you. You’re the only one I really want in my bed, taking me out to breakfast, and marrying me in open-air chapels. You're the only one who makes me smile that way and who whispers in my ear as you embrace me.

I love you Angel, and you're mine.

Happy early Valentine's.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Goodnight, Amanda B.

I think my favorite blog just retired, Very Zen. Amanda Brumfield rocked the microphone in more ways than I ever will, but I think the nasty internet machine just kicked the shit out of her. Amanda, if you Google your name and find me, I'm so sorry. I'm really going to miss your blog. Wish I could say, "stay in touch."

Dream Entry #5

I finally got around to cultivating the little 6’ x 10’ patch of ground in front of my apartment building. I’d always had big plans for it: daylilies, amaryllis, peonies, pachysandra. It already had some scraggly tulips and a few other plants I could work with, but on this beautiful, warm, breezy summer day, I happily dug huge furrows for all my plants to have nice, soft soil to settle into.

Ralph Macchio, the “Karate Kid,” was upstairs asleep in my bed. After a great date night, romantic dinner and a movie, we came back to my apartment to talk and make out a little. We realized how late it was and it seemed silly for Ralph to leave when he was too tired to drive, and we slept chastely side-by-side.

In the morning, Ralph still sleeping, I was still high from such a perfect date. My buzz made gardening in the sun feel divine, and the breeze kept me cool while I worked, sweating in the dirt.

As I squatted on the ground digging out the roots of a small, errant walnut tree, Dwayne Johnson, “The Rock,” walked around the corner of my apartment building. He took off his sunglasses and smiled at me, and I looked up at him, happy to see my other date.

“Let’s go out to breakfast,” Dwayne asked me.

I stood up, “I can’t; he’s up there.”

“Did you … ?” Dwayne hinted.

“No, we were just up really late talking and we fell asleep.”

Dwayne was disappointed that Ralph was in my bed: “I don’t want there to be anyone else. I want just you and me.”

“I’d like that,” I smiled at him, pleased. Things weren’t really serious with Ralph anyway, it was just a temporary dating kind of thing, not a relationship, not like the potential I had with Dwayne.

“Tell you what,” I said to Dwayne, “drive around the block a few times so he doesn’t see you, and I’ll get rid of him and get ready to go out. OK?”

He smiled, put his sunglasses back on, and left, grinning.

I ran upstairs to Ralph. “Ralph, Ralph, wake up. Listen, I’m sorry, I have to go out. You can stay here until 10 am, but then I need you to be out, OK? Just pull the door closed behind you and it will lock.”

I got dressed and washed my face, thinking about how I’d break things off with Ralph later.

But I never saw The Rock again. Somehow I ended up in L.A., marrying Alec Baldwin. We were consumingly happy to be together and so in love. We went to a gorgeous open-air chapel that he chose for our wedding rehearsal.

As it turned out, the church was doing several rehearsals in one day. All of the brides-to—be had beautiful swirly dresses that breezed behind them, billowing, as they walked down the aisle, to mimic how their wedding dresses would look in the gentle chapel breeze. I was sad, because I was still wearing the denim mini skirt and black t-shirt I had picked for my breakfast date with Dwayne Johnson; I didn’t know about the breezy dress tradition.

“Here,” a kind, elderly chapel assistant said to me. She could see how sad I was not to participate in the blowing dress parade. “Put this on,” she told me. She held out a glimmering, sheer, black veil with silver stars, and wrapped it around my face like a harem girl’s scarf. Only my eyes showed above the veil, and my sly smile just barely glowed through the thin fabric.

I walked down the aisle, my veil gently pressing into my face in the breeze, and all eyes were on me, the most beautiful bride-to-be of the day. The other women, with their conventional dresses, jealously stared, and their husbands were mesmerized. At the end of the aisle, reaching my groom, Alec Baldwin gleamed at me, “You look perfect,” he whispered into my ear, as he embraced me.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Contrary Miss Wy

I love to be what my friend calls “contrary.” If you were to say, “I think there is a lot to admire about the Mormon church,” I would say, “I hate Mormons! Don’t talk about Mormons!” I don’t actually hate Mormons at all; it’s only that in a certain mood or triggered by certain people, I must be disagreeable. Like when my dear husband says, “Please don’t buy any more avocados,” I must buy avocados.

I also just like to say “No.”

When I took a night class recently, my teacher asked, “Christine, will you go upstairs to see if a better classroom is available?”

I looked at her and said, “No.”

This goes against every minute of training I received as a young Catholic school girl in a strict Southern society, a society where rules of polite conduct matter more than fashion or status, and are required of everyone for even the simplest transactions. As a girl, I was trained to always say, “Yes, ma’am.”

I loved saying “no” to my teacher. I tingled, I got tunnel vision, I felt giddy. I said “no,” and I couldn’t believe it.

She looked at me in shock, and someone rescued the situation by volunteering to find the other room.

The “no” applies to the rest of my life, too. When telemarketers call and my Southern training says to listen to the whole speech and then politely decline, instead I say, “No,” and hang up the phone. I feel stomach flutters of anxiety and head-rushes of joy that I am rid of the intrusion.

The power of denying, of the compelling “no,” is intense for me. In the case of my husband, I feel giddy and wicked, and with my teacher I feel bold and relieved, but with the telemarketer I feel sad to be so rude. “No” grips me and emboldens me; it shames me, and it disturbs me.

When I feel most contrary, when I walk past the fire alarm lever in the hallway outside my office, every day I say to myself, “No, don’t pull the fire alarm.” I don’t actually want to pull the fire alarm, but that perverse part of me that wants to live in contrary land where it’s OK to do everything opposite of good just feels my hand reaching over, fighting the forces of all that is right in this world, and pull, pull, gripping the white handle on the red box and trigger sirens and alarms.

The effect of my contrariness would be calamity. Not only would my entire building have to evacuate (3000 people and more?), but buildings of a certain size in downtown Chicago require a minimum of five fire trucks. Five. Five sirens wailing, five crews rushing onto the scene, five disturbances of the peace and five criminal charges when they find my five fingerprints on the pull box. Five fingers pulled to the pull box, five urges to resist. Five “No’s” a day.

I’m proud of my “no,” but I struggle to use it wisely. A true Southern lady can manage her “no’s,” when to be contrary and when to withhold, but with every “no” I become less Southern.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Lelia's haiku

Hear blue jeans swish-swish
Hoping you walk over here
Seldom enough do

Hi new visitors!

I see you (wink, wink)! And you're totally cute, too.

Welcome to Chicago. It's below freezing here, it's snowing, we didn't win the Super Bowl, the zipper broke on my warmest winter coat this morning, and I forgot to wear snow boots. Yep, that sums it up. But, on the other hand, I am so glad the Stanley blog conference will be here, and I can show off my beautiful, entertaining, and intellectual city.

I'm going to compile a list of links to my favorite posts, the ones where I'm totally profound and funny (too bad that's not every day (sad face)), and they'll be in my left-hand menu bar. That way I can prove that I'm worthy of your loyalty. Pinky swear promise.

-Christine Wy

Monday, February 05, 2007

Sorry, Bears

Chicago Tribune screen grab of Brian Urlacher walking off field.

French fate

Anna, I still remember the best times we had together: I loved it when you braided my hair. Sophomore year, health class, you braided my hair some new way every day, and it felt so good I melted into your lap. Twin French braids like ponytails, French braids that started at the bottom and ended in a spiraled braid bun on my forehead, French braids that zig-zagged back and forth across my head--each was a scalp massage that lulled me into perfect contentment, though teacher Acevedo did drone on and on about reproductive organs. (I always wanted laugh when he said all penises were essentially the same size. Yeah, just like boobs, right?)

We talked on the phone some, and we had mutual friends, but I don’t remember any depth to our friendship but braiding. And that was one sided. I took and took anything that you would give me because I love human touch that much. Especially hair touching. (I must be a monkey.)

But I never groomed you in return. I let myself be your pet because it was so worthwhile. The benefit to me—constant hair braiding—outweighed every discrepancy in our personalities or interests. I didn’t mind that you were a devoted preppy and that I tried to be rock-and-roll mega-punk. I thought it was punk that I was so bold to wear my purple hair braided into perfect, even, inverted twists, as clean and neat as the best professional stylist could ever craft them.

You’ve been trying hard to reach out to me the last few months, Anna, but I just don’t know what to say. “Remember health class, when you braided my hair?” It sounds as trivial as it was shallow then. What we didn’t have in common then, we still don’t have in common now. And, now, you can’t even braid my hair you’re so far away. If we could get together weekly for margaritas and hair braiding, I’d say, “Remember health class, when you braided my hair?” and mean it fondly.

Your twin children are beautiful, Anna, I mean it. But I remember your husband from our small high school (they look just like him), and I remember all those years you deceived me. “We’re just friends,” you said about him all the time, over and over. Years later you tracked me down and said, “We secretly dated all that time and now we’re married.” Were we really friends if you didn’t tell me about your secret boyfriend? I don’t remember it the way you do, I guess.

There’s no grudge; I’m not hurt that you lied to me all those years. And really, I’m glad that your life sounds so storybook perfect and that your twins are precious. Hairbraiding was enough for me then. I loved you in my own way for that, but now my hair is short.

Friday, February 02, 2007

When I close my eyes

Matthew has an office, oak shelves lining the walls, stacked so deep with books that extra books lay horizontally on the vertical. We have that in common, the collecting of books. He has hard wood floors but he’s put down a rug, a rug that I made him get, but since it’s his, it is a subtle geometric pattern of mostly hunter green. One wall of the office is a row of big, academic-looking windows that is partially covered by some of the shelves. His office building is old, and the paned windows are wavy like hundred-year-old glass. The windows let in too much cold, though, and he has a space heater near his feet. He feels cozy with the light and the smell of books and his warm rug.

The desk in his office is old and broad and made of wood—not a cheap metal imitation of real office furniture. But on his old and patinated desk, a white iBook smiles at him, silently electric and efficient. He writes about the history of video games and the development of video game culture as multi-player games create spaces for gamer community.

Matthew is happy in his office.

Where am I?

I am in my dream library. Books are not dusty, materials are never mis-filed and lost forever in the stacks, patrons are friendly and understand that not every question is easily answered.

No, that’s not where I am.

When I close my eyes, I am in a living room. The walls are painted antique patina green, and there are violet and salmon curtains in layers on the wide windows. The windows face west, but it is a hazy day and the sun flows in through a gray filter. I recline on a deep sofa – what color? -- violet, and my Gateway laptop rests under my fingers. My floppy basset hound is asleep, lying on my legs, and my high-strung cat is asleep at my head on the back of the couch.

I am writing. I am writing all the short stories I start but can’t bear to finish because they hurt me so and make me cry. I am working on character sketches for all the novels I’ve researched and I’m writing scene and location descriptions. I am writing children’s books about a little girl who spends her time with her cat and dog.

I am teaching night-class at Matthew’s college, introduction to composition. I hated taking that class as a student because it never went far enough, didn’t teach the real meat of making literature. I hated it because I never believed I could write, because I never believed I would be as confident and competent as the young writers in my college who swaggered and talked about their “work.” I don’t hate teaching composition; I love teaching that language is a door you can walk through to another side. When I read, I sneak into the world the author has created. When I write, I dream into the world that I have created.

And when I close my eyes…


Summer, off college, and I couldn't find a job. I woke every morning, did the dishes, vacuumed the floors, and dusted the shelves. Every lunch, I made you a tuna salad sandwich with Hellman's mayonnaise and Heinz pickle relish. I put pretzels on the side of your plate and put a can of Coke on your placemat. You said it was the best summer of you life. It was mine, too, to feel so necessary.