Most people who are familiar with my work consider me a self-revealing writer. I’ve written about my mother being raped, people I love and cherish dying, abortions, menstruation, quite a bit about sex. Not to mention racism and violence.
A re-occuring experience/nightmare I have is after a reading or during a Q&A, people will ask me questions about these things. “Does your mother know you wrote about her being raped?” (Yes.) “How do you feel about abortion?” (Complex.) “I am Italian/Jewish/Greek/Armenian/Irish-American like you are, but do not consider myself a white person at all. Our people have experienced oppression throughout history. Why do you think of yourself as white?” (Because I am and so are you, honky ofay crackerjack.)
During these questions, when I am standing on a stage and every eye in the room is on me, I feel the blood rise to my face and a panic attack surges in my heart. I never knew the feeling of a panic attack before I added “public speaker” to my resume. In those moments, it takes all of my strength to keep from tearing off the stage and getting away from all these eyes on me.
Which makes absolutely no sense, right?
Why would someone who freely writes about the most private things in her life feel panicky when asked about those very things in public?
My therapist says … hahaha. Joke.
No, seriously, I have been in therapy about this, but nothing helps in those moments I am standing on a stage and asked an uncomfortable question. I stumble over my words, saying “um” and “like” between each breath, sounding exactly like an inarticulate person who could not have possibly read an entire book without pictures, much less written one. When I say “um” and “like” a lot, it’s a sure-fire indication that there is blood rushing to my face and my heart is hummingbirding in my throat.
The thing is, when I am writing, I do not think about how it will feel standing on a stage answering questions about it two or five years on down the road. If I were to think about those things when I was writing, I don’t imagine I’d be able to connect with readers very much. My books consist of stories laid on top of each other, painstakingly stacked and arranged in such a way that a reader will, at best identify with them, and at worst make sense of them. This stacking and arranging happens long after composing the various stories and story parts — sometimes years. I can’t allow the potential public perception into this writing space. It’s sacred.
The dance floor is another such sacred space. On the dance floor, rhythm, bodies, heartbeats, drums and sexual energy coalesce into a tranced out wonderland of joy. You can be as sexual and awesome as you feel like being, and, hopefully, respect that in everyone around you. I’ll grind on my favorite homos for a while and then twirl off to salsa with a hot thug and then slut dance with a sexy-assed trucker butch, all the while reveling in the fact that it means nothing off the dance floor. Every happy dancer knows this and I can honestly say that a love affair on the dance floor hardly ever transfers off. In its very best incarnation, the dance floor is a place where everyone agrees that we are going to get down and dirty and feel safe doing it.
Fuck yes to the dance floor, right.
At least this is what I thought. Once was the time I followed my favorite deejays around town, but now I just stick to two clubs where the dance floor is revered. It turns out that the millenials (sorry kids, but I’ve never seen someone over 30 doing this) think it’s perfectly acceptable to stand in this sacred space and text each other or do Facebook updates in their perpetual quest to narrate and document every moment of their lives.
Millenials of this ilk are so utterly absorbed and obsessed with what others think of them, they bring their insecurities onto the dance floor to try and to ineffectively compensate for the fact that they can’t just live the fuck out of life and grind up against their favorite homo.
Meanwhile, the dance floor is a living organism. It is a sexual hive mind, alive and pulsating to the beat of the same song. Stationary entities on the dance floor are walls, dams, live-rent-work condos erected in the spot your favorite movie theater and candy store used to be. They are, for all intents and purposes, vertical corpses ruining everyone’s good vibration. When you bump up against other dancers, que será, será. But when you bump up against a vertical corpse, they get annoyed with you and you want to punch them in the face but refrain because they are young enough to be your child.
I got into a spat with five girls texting on the dance floor and came to to this realization. It was the first time in my life I’d ever had a spat on the dance floor and it left me feeling empty and horrified.
I bring this same sense of space to my writing. Here, between me and the device I am employing to thread letters together into words into thoughts, this here is a sacred place. I am aware that others will be reading this. I am aware of my reader and I care for my reader, in much the same way I regard fellow dancers on the dance floor. Inviting the outside world into this space is likewise horrifying and leaves me with an empty feeling. I cannot think about questions that I might be asked in public two years from now about my spat with the girls on the dance floor after the nation is swept up in a new trend of violence at dance clubs or some shit I have absolutely no way of even remotely considering at this point in time. I am a Point A to Point B Thinker. The second I start thinking about the potential questions the public might come up with in the future is the instant I am dead as a writer.