10
May 17

A Breakup Story

This breakup story starts on a Thursday. The Thursday in question was perhaps, the worst Thursday of my life. Though, admittedly, the breakup was only part of that.

A Breakup Story

This past semester, I’ve been teaching an extra class. And that fifth class took place Thursdays from 6 PM to 8:50 PM. And since Thursdays are the last day of my week, they were always a little arduous.

Imagine if your Fridays required you to be a functional human for a really long time. That’s what it’s like.

Anyway, I came home carrying extra bags of library books and an umbrella. The day itself had been gross simply because it was one of the most humid days in recent memory, and I was covered in several layers of sweat that had dried throughout various times in the day.

My clothes, for the record, smelled like the cast iron skillet of onions and bell peppers that accompany your order of fajitas.

This Thursday was also the final day before my students would be turning in their formal reports. It’s always a harrowing time, simply because no matter how much time you give your students, they will wait until the last minute to ask questions. So in addition to giving tests in my two classes, I had 3 hours worth of questions in my office hours. I tweeted about it.

After office hours I grabbed nachos in the student union, because you get to eat nachos when you’re worn out. And if you work on a college campus, you get to eat like a college kid. It’s in the employee handbook.

Then I went to my class, gave a test, and let the students leave when they were finished.

And when I got home that night — that’s when the breakup happened.

I don’t feel it’s right to say all the reasons why, because some of them are Chris’s reasons, and not my story to tell. But I will say this: The breakup was probably a long time coming.

Which feels weird to type after posting about house hunting, but like, I guess forever decisions like mortgages make you take stock, and had Chris not done so, I probably never would’ve either.

All that is to say that yes, Chris is the one that brought it up. He stood at the kitchen table just minutes after I walked in the door that night. As I put something in the trashcan right next to the table, I asked him what was up, because he looked super anxious.

And that’s when he did it.

There were no major fights or blowups. There were no big red flags. There were no conversations with friends over drinks about all the problems we were having.

Because there weren’t any major problems, nor have there ever really been. Chris and I are really good friends. And we always will be, at least I hope. But we’re not meant to be together.

We’re like a reverse When Harry Met Sally.

And I think we both knew that the relationship itself had been on autopilot for a really long time. It’s kind of like we had built up enough momentum over the years and we were able to just coast for the past few years.

But coasting and momentum are no way to live.

If we hadn’t broken up when we did, I’m sure we would’ve gotten married. I’m sure we would’ve had a couple of kids. And I’m sure that we would be the couple that gets divorced when we were in our fifties because the kids had grown up and we no longer had anything in common.

I can’t say that it’s been easy, because it hasn’t. And I haven’t told many people. (If you’re getting the news of the breakup via this post, and you feel slighted, sorry, I guess. But also, I owe you nothing.)

The breakup itself hurt. I cried. But I gotta be real. The minute Chris did it, I exhaled. It was like a small weight had been lifted. Because I think we both felt that we were moving in this direction. But I’m glad Chris did it, because I don’t think I could’ve.

See, in the sober light of day, we aren’t the same as we were almost 7 years ago when we met. I was 24, a bartender, and barely capable of being a human. He was 30, fresh out of a divorce, and just going to a bar to blow off steam on a Monday night. Neither of us were looking for a relationship, but, well, life happens.

In those years we’ve been together, we’ve changed dramatically. And though we’ve pretty much grown in the same direction as friends, we aren’t in love anymore.

I think here is a good place for me to say that I’m not posting this to solicit advice. In fact, I rarely, if ever, solicit advice. I know some will say that there are natural ebbs and flows in relationships, and that Chris and I should just stick it out. But as my friend Mari said, when you know, you know. And I know we’re doing the right thing.

So, I dealt with my emotions the way I always do — on Twitter.

I am a garbage millennial, always on the social media. WRING YOUR HANDS AT MY LIFE, BOOMERS.

But other things that have helped during this time are:

  • Bingeing 13 Reasons Why on Netflix. I absolutely hated the show, thought it was poorly done, and tried too hard to be deep and serious, all while paying lip service to actual issues. But, hey! A breakup can’t be worse than having to be the overly tattooed 20-something pretending to be a high schooler for a show that will probably go down in history as one of the worst portrayals of mental illness and revenge fantasies. So, there’s that.

  • Reading Fat Girl Walking by Brittany Gibbons. I love Brittany’s blog, and her general attitude toward life. Plus, she’s relatable, so much so that I can imagine us meeting up for nachos and margaritas to gossip and just bitch about life. (Second nachos reference in this post, because I use food to deal with life.)
  • Listening to The Minimalists podcast. If you ever find yourself in a life situation where you’re going to need to pack up all your crap to make a life change in the very near future, it’s so much easier when you’re listening to Josh and Ryan answer questions about the process of downsizing and getting rid of crap. Bonus points for how soothing it is too.
  • Grading papers. I seriously went through all the papers I had to grade in 9 days. That’s a new personal record. But it’s so much easier to get work done when you don’t really want to be alone with your thoughts.
  • Talking about writing. Thankfully, I was able to attend the OWFI conference this past weekend, and just being there felt really energizing. It’s great to know that there are people in the world who are into what you’re into, and that they believe in you even when everything else is falling apart. Also, as if the universe needed to remind me that everything is a very small, closed circle, it was announced that Jay Asher, the author of the book 13 Reasons Why, will be the keynote at next year’s conference. Weird, huh?

As for future plans, I’m slowly making them.

I’m still house hunting, but for a very different type of house. Me and Rosie, the greatest dog in the universe, need a swingin’ bachelorette pad.

I also plan to put a lot of time and energy into writing. Chris didn’t prevent me from writing, but I was in a really comfortable place in our relationship, and I definitely didn’t focus on artistic growth in the way I should’ve. It’s time to stop coasting.

Fitness is going back on the radar too. I mean, it’s always on the radar because I am a woman in a First World country, and I’ve been conditioned to believe I’m garbage if I don’t obsess about fitness in a pathological way. But I’m looking forward to establishing a new workout routine.

As for dating again, I’m sure it will happen eventually. But for now, I’m going to respectfully decline all your offers to hook me up with that one single guy from your office/church/homeowner’s association/fantasy football league/biker gang. I’m really good at being single, and after 7 years of being in a relationship, I’m really looking forward to being single again.


11
Apr 17

House Hunting for the Person You Want to Be

I mentioned on Twitter the other day that Chris and I have been doing some house hunting. We realized that we’re ready to get out of our current place and we’ve been falling in love with houses all over the city.

House hunting for the person you want to be

For Chris and I, the location of the house is more important than the house itself. I mean, don’t get me wrong. We don’t want to be living in some ramshackle shanty that happens to be in a really cool district. But we definitely don’t want to live in a dream house that’s nowhere near anything we do or like.

We know we want to stay in Norman. It’s where I work, and it’s close enough to where Chris works that it would be silly to go anywhere else. And we really love Norman. Sure, it’s boring sometimes, but it’s our city. And you really can’t beat a college town in the middle of summer. Then the city really feels like it’s ours.

(Yeah. I know. I work at the university and students are my livelihood. But you know what else students are? More traffic, 45-minute waits at restaurants, and impossibly long lines at Target. I appreciate all the tuition dollars that make their way into my paycheck. But I really savor those summer months.)

But here’s the thing: We’re struggling to figure out what kind of house it is we want. And the more we look, the more two very distinct paths emerge.

Our original intent was to purchase a home in a historical district. But all the historical districts are around the university. This would be great since I could easily walk to work. But it also sucks, because if a house is in a historical district, people get away with asking $200k for a cardboard box that’s duct taped to a milk crate. The listing will call it a “cozy fixer upper.”

I CALL IT GARBAGE.

The listing will call it a cozy fixer upper. I CALL IT GARBAGE. Click To Tweet

If you’re not familiar with the Oklahoma City metro area housing market, the majority of good, decent houses in a good, decent school districts are typically between $120k to $250k — depending on the size and the particular area. And historical houses are basically a bajillion dollars for 1,000 square feet, one bathroom, and zero closets.

Chris and I tend more toward the minimal side of things. (Though we’d gladly take this place on Main Street in a heart beat.) We don’t have a ton of tchotchkes or collections of things. Basically, everything we have means something to us. And we are well-known for taking a load of stuff to Goodwill once a week. So, we don’t need a whole lot of space. Besides, we currently reside in a house that’s just over 1,000 square feet, and it feels like a good amount of space for us.

So, our house hunting started with looking at what the historical districts had to offer. And we quickly became disenchanted with that because apparently you can ask for over a million dollars for a house that hasn’t been renovated since 1963 and is missing 30% of it’s siding. And people will pay for it.

(I have a theory that these people are rich alumni who want a place to hang during football season. They can eat my dirty socks.)

We expanded our search, and that’s when I could see two distinctive futures in front of us.

The further from the university we looked, the bigger the houses became. The more we searched the online listings, the more we kept coming back to “the dream house.” Nestled at the end of a cul-de-sac, this house was 2,200 square feet, two floors, four bedrooms and two living areas. I spent a lot of time imagining how awesome it would be to turn one of those living rooms into my library/office.

We did fall out of love with it pretty easily though. The online pictures were obviously taken by someone who knew how to manipulate the depth of field. When we saw the house in person, it was the choppiest, space-wasting floor plan I could imagine.

But there it was. On the one hand, we wanted a small historical house near the university. On the other, we wanted a huge, suburban place to keep up with the Joneses.

Chris and I had a come to Jesus sort of talk via Google Hangouts, because we’re terrible people who can really only communicate with some sort of digital interface between us. (That’s not entirely true. We are just more likely to be brazenly honest when we chat via computer rather than in person, where we will couch what we say in non-specific and overly nice terms.)

In this conversation, we really specified what it is we want in a house. Here’s our house hunting wish list:

  1. 1,600 square feet maximum: This may seem small to some, but it really is a lot of space for just the two of us. We know we want a bedroom for us, one for a guest room, and then we’ll both need some space to work when we’re at home. If that means we put some office space in the corner of a living room, or another bedroom, then that’s good. Plus, I grew up in a house about that size, and there was plenty of room for four people to avoid each other in there.
  2. Library space: Right now, my office in our current home serves as the library. I have no trouble putting my massive, messy collection of books in another bedroom in our new home. But if there’s a nook/small area in the living room for them, that would be awesome too.
  3. Two bathrooms: I feel I don’t need to justify this. When I used to live in a one-bathroom house with roommates, there was many a morning when one of us would drive to a nearby gas station to use the bathroom while the other was in the shower. I don’t want to live that life ever again.
  4. A location we love: There are a lot of fun areas in Norman, and they all tend to be around the university. We’re okay with paying a little more to be near campus and downtown, since those are the two main places we go. We have this beautiful vision of someday only owning one car, and even then, we mostly walk wherever we need to go. I don’t know if it will ever happen, but if it does, it’s going to be because we live around campus. But we’re definitely open to other neighborhoods that can offer us quiet, less traffic, and easy access to the highway for Chris.
  5. A non-galley kitchen: This is perhaps the most important thing on the list. The problem with the galley kitchen is that I’m really good at getting in Chris’s way when he’s doing something in our galley kitchen. Like, if I open the dishwasher while he’s stirring something on the stove, there is a good chance that we’ll bump into each other, or Chris will trip on dishwasher door. (Yes, just like what happened to Zach Braff’s mom in Garden State.) For the sake of our relationship, we need more space in the kitchen.
  6. Absolutely no wife-swapping: You may think that this item is a joke. It’s not. I would wager a guess that if you live in a more (but not necessarily) suburban area, you have people in your neighborhood that you suspect of wife-swapping. I’m not here to swinger-shame your groovy lifestyles, but I am saying that sort of thing isn’t for Chris and I. I think there are a lot of neighborhoods in the Oklahoma City Metro suburbs where wife-swapping, cheating on your spouse, and living a generally empty life is the norm. And that sort of things tends to stem from people earning a decent living, then coming home from work and not knowing what to do with their time. (I’m sure a level of marital dissatisfaction or a manic need for new and exciting things comes into play too.) Chris and I have side hustles, so we don’t want to get sucked into weird neighbor drama when our time off work is spent working on other things.
How wife-swappy is your neighborhood? Click To Tweet

So there you have it. House hunting in a nutshell. What do you look for in a house? What’s your house hunting wish list? How wife-swappy is your neighborhood? Are you selling a house near the University of Oklahoma? Wanna forgo realtors and sell it directly to me? Please?!


31
Mar 17

The Real Beauty and the Beast Controversy!

Last Friday, I went to see Beauty and the Beast with my mom. We enjoyed it, but I was surprised that I didn’t hear about the real Beauty and the Beast controversy on the news.

The Real Beauty and the Beast Controversy

(Side note: James Dickson has some super great posts on his blog breaking down the story elements in the new adaptation. They are nuanced and intelligent and totally worth reading — everything this post will not be. You can check out Part I here and Part II here.)

I heard about the controversy the conservative blogosphere went bananapants over, but 1.) That wasn’t that big a part of the movie, and 2.) IF YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH QUEER CODED CHARACTERS YOU NEED TO NEVER WATCH DISNEY MOVIES AGAIN BECAUSE IT’S LITERALLY IN ALL OF THEM AND THEY JUST WENT ALL OUT WITH LEFOU THIS TIME AROUND.

Obviously, spoilers ahead. I mean, unless you already watched the animated movie. Because, even the little changes they made for live action don’t change the overall story. You know what happens. So maybe these aren’t technically spoilers. I don’t know. PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK OR WHATEVER.

So, as you know, there’s an enchantress who curses a prince and turns him into a beast. She does this because he’s a massive jerk and deserves to look like a buffalo for a while. (His servants don’t deserve to be turned into housewares and decor, but they are. I’m pretty sure there’s a rule against this in the enchantress code of conduct. But then again, maybe not back in 18th century France.)

I consider myself hella knowledgeable when it comes to matters of enchantment and witchcraft because I watched The Craft like a million times in the fifth grade, and a friend of mine used to hide her Wiccan accessories in my house in high school so her Bible-thumping parents wouldn’t find them.

I believe this makes me an expert in enchantments, witchcraft, and all manner of magic. (P.S. DO YOU WANT TO START A COVEN WITH ME?!)

In the new live action movie, the enchantress not only bewitches the prince into the beast, but later she gives Belle’s father a healing tea, and even hangs around to un-enchant the beast when Belle is crying over his dead body.

So here’s the real Beauty and the Beast controversy. LET ME TELL YOU.

Let me tell you the real Beauty and the Beast controversy. Click To Tweet

The great thing about possessing magic or being a witch is that you can basically adopt a “set it and forget it” mindset when it comes to spells and curses. It’s a lot like the Ronco Rotisserie oven in that way. (Tell me you don’t think there’s magic in the skin of a rotisserie chicken. It’s that good.)

Anyway, in the new live action Beauty and the Beast, the enchantress sets the curse in the beginning of the film, and at the end, she is sauntering through the ol’ castle and undoing her handiwork when she sees the beast has been loved for the beauty he possesses inside.

THIS IS SUPER BUSH LEAGUE. (And the source of the real Beauty and the Beast controversy.)

Here’s the thing enchantresses of the world all know: If you’ve done the spell correctly, then you don’t have to be around when it’s time to be undone. YOU SET THAT IN THE SPELL. Also, if you doomed a dude to be a buffalo man surrounded by talking harpsichords, crockery, and timepieces, DO YOU THINK HOMEBOY IS GONNA BE SUPER CHILL ABOUT IT WHEN HE TURNS BACK INTO A HUMAN?

No. No he’s not.

In fact, I can’t figure out why no one snuck up on Agatha the Enchantress at the end of the movie and shanked her. Surely Mrs. Potts wanted some vengeance since her little boy almost became a teacup forever. Surely Lumiere (with Ewan McGregor’s outrageous French accent) wanted the enchantress to know what it’s like to hold fire in her hands and on her head. SURELY HE WOULD TRY TO BURN HER FOR THE WITCH SHE IS.

Like, are we pretending that this poor provincial town somehow exists in a historical France that is immune to witch hunts?! BECAUSE THAT FRANCE DID NOT EXIST.

The real Beauty and the Beast controversy is that a witch didn’t set and forget her spell, and that no one was mad at her for almost dooming them to a life as inanimate objects/a beast. WITCHES HAVE BEEN BURNED FOR LESS.

WITCHES HAVE BEEN BURNED FOR LESS. Click To Tweet

To conclude:

Is this a super weird hill to die on? Yeah.

But I’m dying and this happens to be the hill I’m on.

P.S. No offense to Dan Stevens, but I’d run off with Gaston in a heartbeat. Know that this greatly influenced by decision.


29
Mar 17

The 40 Reasons “Why Do You Write?” Challenge

Have you heard of the 40 Reasons “Why Do You Write?” Challenge? Bryan Hutchinson over at Positive Writer posted about it on Sunday. Because I’m super defiant and love a good challenge, I thought I’d take a whack at it. Plus, I really wanted to take stock of why I write.

Why I Write

Without further ado, here are the 40 reasons why I write.

40 Reasons Why I Write (Thanks, @ADDerWORLD!) Click To Tweet
  1. I’ve always had a knack for it.
  2. Teachers and family encouraged me to keep it up.
  3. I communicate better in writing than I do in speaking.
  4. I daydream too much not to write it down.
  5. Writing is how I clear my head.
  6. I love the feel of a pen in my hand.
  7. I love the feel of a keyboard under my fingers even more.
  8. I want to feel in control of language, even though I also believe it’s the number one deterrent to communication.
  9. Someone has to fill up all the notebooks stores sell. May as well be me.
  10. I have a desire to be viewed as an intellectual, and writing scratches that itch.
  11. I like to express emotions in terms of the synesthesia they inspire.
  12. I love proving to money-hungry jerks with logical careers that writing is a thing you can earn money for.
  13. I enjoy breaking all the rules your English teacher taught you.
  14. I can’t just turn off my brain after the workday is over unless I write.
  15. I think writing is a gift from the Universe, so I have to share it.
  16. Without writing, I literally have no idea what my hobbies would be.
  17. I write because if I don’t, I get super depressed.
  18. Writing is like a puzzle I want to solve. I set out to make a paragraph, and I have to figure out where the pieces fit.
  19. I believe I’m smarter than 95% of the population, and writing reaffirms this. (NO APOLOGIES.)
  20. I write because I don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to write.
  21. Sometimes inspiration bashes me over the head like an avalanche, and I have to.
  22. Even if a piece I’ve written gets rejected, I don’t feel like I want to quit. Writing is the only thing I never want to quit.
  23. Writing is my calling. It’s my higher purpose. It’s why I’m on this planet.
  24. Because people automatically think I’m interesting when I tell them I’m a writer. #sovain
  25. I write because I empathize with a lot of people, and I want to give voice to the feelings this empathy brings me.
  26. I write because I can understand the motives of a person within knowing them for an hour. (Thanks, mean girls from my childhood. Your guileless transparency was a great primer.)
  27. I like sharing ideas with a broad range of people.
  28. I read Ramona Quimby, Age 8 in the second grade and decided I was going to be a writer. (Thanks, Beverly Cleary!)
  29. I write because it’s often like picking off a scab and digging around in the pus to find what’s causing the problem.
  30. I have stylistic intentions for my commas, and believe parentheses are like hugging your words.
  31. Writing lets me take stock of moments and record them.
  32. I want closure for so many things, and writing is the only way to get closure in a lot of situations.
  33. Because I want my thoughts to resonate with someone.
  34. I write to share my experiences with others.
  35. Because I literally have no idea what people do with their time if they’re not writing.
  36. I write because some day I want novel writing to be my day job.
  37. I write because you can’t name another Persian Mexican Native American writer that’s your favorite.
  38. Because writing is fun when I’m manic.
  39. Because writing is life-saving when I’m down.
  40. And finally, because 200 years from now, people will know my name. It’s all about the infamy.
200 years from now, people will know my name. #amwriting Click To Tweet

21
Mar 17

The Pedestal in His Workshop

The Pedestal in His Workshop

This past weekend, I began writing about my experience with a specific writing instructor. After reading Bonnie Nadzam’s “Experts in the Field” essay in Tin House on Saturday, I’ve chosen to publish this. After reading Bonnie’s essay, I can’t help but feel like I had a really good experience, even though it was terrible. Our experiences aren’t the same, but neither of our experiences are unique. For further reading that explains just how prevalent this sort of thing is in the writing world, check out this piece on Literary Hub.

Ten years ago when I didn’t have the words for what was going on, I took a writing class with a local author. In fact, I took several. It was during the year between undergrad and grad school, and I wanted to stay sharp and relevant and if I’m being really honest, I wanted the praise that comes from a teacher.

I needed someone to tell me I was special because that year I spent waiting tables at a professional wrestling-themed barbecue restaurant in the parking lot of a Walmart made me feel really worthless.

(I’ve always been susceptible to the bigger and better, especially when I was younger. And when I couldn’t attain it, I crumbled a lot inside.)

So, on my first day of class, I showed up early. I didn’t know anyone, but I didn’t care. This was a class. This was where I excelled. This was what I was meant to do.

I had read one of the instructor’s books, and thought it was decent enough. It wasn’t a life changing read, but not many books are.

The class was an interesting mix. There were young and old, new and seasoned writers, published and unpublished.

Among the mix of people was my friend, Katie. That’s how we met. Even though I look back on this class with a mix of rage and regret, I’m glad I met Katie. She was a bright spot in a dark place.

Though this was my first time to take the class, it wasn’t the first time for a lot of the students. Many of them were long-time disciples, flocking like moths to a flame of this teacher. I couldn’t figure out why anyone would take the same class several times then. I mean, I was waiting tables and dead broke all the time. I couldn’t fathom paying for this $190 6-week class more than once.

As class began, it felt manic and frenetic. The energy felt good. That’s mostly how writing workshops have always felt to me, like the first time you try speed.

In the first session, we outlined a novel together. He’d call out for suggestions of protagonists and antagonists, for conflicts, for setting. We’d shout back as he wrote the different elements on a large easel-sized Post-It pad. Once we’d complete one element, he’d stick it to the wall and start over with another sheet on the big pad.

By the end of class, we had a novel. Sure, it wasn’t good. But most books aren’t. And that was how he convinced all of us that it was super easy to write a novel. After all, it’s just a game of filling in the blanks, right?

Then, for the rest of the class sessions, different people would bring their novel outlines and we would all critique each other’s. It went well. I excelled, in a way. Insofar as excelling is receiving praise.

I took many classes from this instructor that year. There were different class options that he taught, always a different component of the writing process, but taught in his signature madcap style. Katie was always there, and it was nice to have a friend who was into the same thing I was into, because up until that point, I had literally never had that.

Even now, I can count on one hand the number of friends I have who are into the same things as I am.

As I got to know that instructor better, and as Katie and I got to know each other more, a weird dynamic emerged. We were under a figurative microscope. Anything we did — writing, clothing choices, vending machine drinks — were under scrutiny. The instructor picked at us constantly. Sure, he did it in fun, or at least that’s what his tone said. The older, unkempt men in the class picked up the game quick. They would make similar comments, or let us know that they’d love to take care of us, if only we’d marry them.

The younger men in the class followed suit.

The Pedestal in His Workshop Click To Tweet

It’s also worth noting here there were a fair amount of women in the class that were older than me and Katie. It would be hard to be younger than us, as we were the 21-year-olds in an adult education courses. And those women, while they weren’t outwardly cold to us, it was obvious that they were tired of us. Like they thought we were asking for the attention.

At the time, I didn’t realize what was happening. I had never been in a class like this. I had never interacted with older men, except for maybe my dad and his friends. And they didn’t act like this.

I found myself behaving in odd ways in that class. I would specifically wear boring sweaters and jeans — anything to make it harder for that instructor to call me out. And when he did call me out for any number of things, I found myself answering untruthfully, just because I wanted to placate him. I wanted to tell him something that would please him. I needed that validation that I was attending those closes to get. So he’d ask me pointed questions, trying to trap me, to make me look like an idiot, trying to have that little moment where he could point out to the whole class how stupid 21-year-old women were so we could all laugh together, and I’d say anything to get him to just fuck off.

(I didn’t realize that was what I was doing, though. And I didn’t realize that I was doing that until I ran into that teacher a writer’s conference a few years ago. He started in on me as soon as he said hello, and I found myself saying bullshit to get him to go away.)

I can’t speak for Katie. I don’t know if that’s how she felt. But it’s how I felt.

And I didn’t even realize I was doing it. I was trying to play the game I played in classes. Say the right thing, receive validation. I was grasping at straws every time I attended that class.

I feel it’s important here to note that I don’t, nor have I ever specifically sought validation from older men. In fact, I have spent a lot of my life trying to piss them off. This was different though. He was a teacher. That’s who I wanted validation from.

It’s only now, with that 10 years of hindsight that I realize we were placed on a pedestal in that workshop. We were there for the entertainment and delight of a group of old degenerates. These were men, who over the course of several classes, would open up about their distain for their wives or for women in general. They would eloquently express how terrible women were, but they would gladly take up with us in a heartbeat.

And they felt they were allowed to do this because the classroom environment enabled it.

Only I couldn’t see it then. In fact, I joined a writer’s group with a few of those men, and met with them for years after the classes had ended. I think I was still young enough to seek that validation. Even though the teacher wasn’t there anymore, those old men had become his proxies. And I just wanted to hear them tell me I was a good writer.

But what I got was more picking.

While I’m not happy that was my experience, I’m happy to have processed it all, to understand what was happening. It has, perhaps irrevocably, changed my writing process. There’s always a sneering middle-aged man in the back of my head. He picks at words and story ideas. He reminds me that since what I’m writing about is something he hasn’t experienced, it’s somehow invalid.

And then I remind myself that this middle-aged man in the back of my head is just as disgusting as the men in those classes. All ear hair and paunch. Body odor and artificially inflated ego.

For a long time I thought my teaching style was forged by my love of writing. I thought if I just conveyed to my students that if you did the research or knew what you wanted to say, then it became easy to say it.

And while maybe that’s true, it’s not where my teaching style comes from at all. I am a product of that classroom, of those bad experiences from that teacher.

In my classroom, everyone has space to say what they want to say. Click To Tweet

In my classroom, everyone has space to say what they want to say. And no one will ever play those stupid mind games with my students on my watch.