The Romance, the Glamour!
My writer friends and I often joke about the glamour of the writing life. You know, all the slightly horrifying and / or vaguely humiliating things that you end up doing. The readings with two people in the audience and no one even buys a book, the weird backhanded compliments, the odd requests, the moments of mistaken identity, the time your name was misspelled in that terrible review. The terrible reviews. etc. Oh, the glamorous writing life! we will text each other when we’re rejected or passed over or when we slip and fall in the mud on our way to the liquor store.
Well, on the weekend I did get to enjoy a bit of the glamour of lit-world, attending the Literary Gala for the Writers’ Guild of Alberta. I even dressed up! Well, for me, that is. My book was shortlisted, though did not win. Still, glamorous, right?
Anyway, it’s all kind of amusing these days. The glamour, the romance. Which is why I loved this poem when I read it on Poetry Foundation.
The Romance of Middle Age
by Mary Meriam
Now that I’m fifty, let me take my showers
at night, no light, eyes closed. And let me swim
in cover-ups. My skin’s tattooed with hours
and days and decades, head to foot, and slim
is just a faded photograph. It’s strange
how people look away who once would look.
I didn’t know I’d undergo this change
and be the unseen cover of a book
whose plot, though swift, just keeps on getting thicker.
One reaches for the pleasures of the mind
and heart to counteract the loss of quicker
knowledge. One feels old urgencies unwind,
although I still pluck chin hairs with a tweezer,
in case I might attract another geezer
Twenty years ago, I was at a similar awards ceremony where my first book of poetry won the award for that category. I felt I deserved it! hahahahaha. I had no idea then how flukey the whole business is and how there are just so. many. variables. But I do now. I also get the fact that when you’re a writer you are also not a movie star or a rock star, or actually any kind of star. You have more in common with doctors or truck drivers and probably librarians or secret shoppers or grocery store check-out people.
Which is why it’s funny to be going to anything called a ‘gala.’ Because I knew I wasn’t going to win, there was no way I was going to buy a new dress. The dress I wore I also wore every third day in Rome last November. And the boots? I’ve had them for at least a decade? I had Rob cut my hair across the bottom a week ahead of time. My nails, the usual unpolished rubbish. I did wear my contacts. I did take care with my lipstick. I think I shaved my legs? I lost no weight before the big party day.
Let me say, that this is ALL GOOD. Frankly darlings, it’s marvellous. It’s exactly as it should be.
I think the article in the weekend NY Times by Jessica Knoll titled, “Smash the Wellness Industry” is striking a few chords. Sure did for me. I am not perfect. I am not a movie star. I am at the point of my life where I want to enjoy what I enjoy. Whether it’s food or music or weird books. (“Slim is just a faded photograph.”) The author talks about trying to lose weight and consulting consecutive dietitians:
“The new dietitian had a different take. “What a gift,” she said, appreciatively, “to love food. It’s one of the greatest pleasures in life. Can you think of your appetite as a gift?” It took me a moment to wrap my head around such a radical suggestion. Then I began to cry.”
I just want to think of all of this as a gift. What a gift to love food! What a gift to love writing! and reading! What a gift is this life, the tawdry glamour, the writing, the body that I’ve been given and that has taken me this far. I just want to practice that “small act of resistance” mentioned by Knoll: being kind to myself. Radical. Yes.