A ‘Half-Decent’ Writing Life

I have to write about this. I’ve grappled with it and on the one hand, it is of little consequence but when I consider ‘Men Explain Things To Me’ and Rebecca Solnit’s essays as well as the reason why the Canadian Women In Literary Arts (CWILA) have been introduced as an Association, I am going to share.
I was at Indigo Books yesterday, March 20th. I went for a long Sunday walk/stroll. As writers I know we get tired of bookstores (except Bookcity!) lol. We want to stay away from them. Writers can get reclusive from that scene of merchandising. However, Zarathustra contemplated the coming down from the mountain of self and joining everyone once again. It was fun. I picked out 4 books. I could have gotten them at the Toronto Public Library or ordered them from the ever controversial Amazon. These books were for my work. Two books about Women from China. A book of essays (Arts & Letters) which I’ve read before but Anansi did a reprint of Northrop Frye so I thought I’d add this one to my library at home. Then I decided to get a second copy of The Waves by Woolf due to another book I’m working on. Buying books as a writer is another conundrum.
I get to the cash and a younger guy. Caucasian that fit the Hipster description to an absolute (I later found out his name and that fit the bill entirely as well!) took my books and looked at me (Yes he was cute, lots of potential and lots going for him!) I smiled my usual sweet, thick-skinned voluptuous soft-spoken self who is usually taken for 33 years old when I’m actually 41. Then, a totally difficult tough experienced woman with a deceptive outer shell, until (like all humans) it goes beyond the point of no return, (whatever that may be for each of us) the young dude, (I’d say anywhere between 28 and 33 years old) said to a woman (me) “Hi, (pause) These are half decent books”, and I looked at him, a bit stunned for 3 seconds, realizing how tired I was at that point, I laughed, sort of chuckled, and I thought, Oh really? How does that mean anything? How is that relevant in our world except for your own? I thought, so do I tell him about myself or just ignore him? I decided I’d go the distance because I couldn’t help but wonder if he was attracted to me (saw me as nice and accessible) and that’s why he had to say what he did and what would he have said if this was a male? or an older woman etc. So, I told him I was a published writer. “Look me up I said, Google me”, Oooh…gle me! (I don’t care about ego I just wanted to make a point.) I said, “I’m using these books for research on two contracts I have on books. Anything I read nowadays isn’t for leisure or something to learn about existence from. It’s work. It’s business. I enjoy it but it doesn’t impress me or excite me and I’m way beyond the point of evaluations other than the fact that I knew these writers have put their heart and soul into what they’d written and that is fundamentally why I chose said books and there’s always some detail to learn.” Arrogant little prick? A young kid working at Indigo. Like, really? O Whatever. I can call it many things. I bought the books and walked out of the store and then I thought about it a little more and I decidedly turned around, went upstairs and returned the books. I found the manager who, to my surprise, was a really nice lady and told her about myself and what had happened. I wasn’t abrupt or angry, I just told her I can’t deal with some young kid who doesn’t know me making comments like that. Not today. I used to work here. I know it can be fun. I had fun. But, I couldn’t help wondering, if I’d been a male would he have spoken to me as such? She was very understanding. Yes, she’d speak to him. Yes, he learns something. What did I learn, I saved $80.00 tax not included and then the books were offered to me free, which actually, without shame, I gladly took. She understood me. She knows writers don’t make a great income. She doesn’t have the entitlement that youth brings. I’m sure in the past I may have said things as he did to someone, somewhere. And perhaps this young guy wanted to make a connection. But in Sonia style, why can’t you just tell me, “Oh, I like this or that,” because that’s what I do. Perhaps it sounds trite, to share a likeness, but what else is there between strangers? The problem of Pain can be avoided out of the need to connect and find kindness. Myself, it’s never about how much I ‘know’ in the world until perhaps it’s called for? Just how I was feeling. For myself, it’s come down to this–it is what we (humanity) can share. Maybe that was his way of trying to share…but I’m not there. I’m way beyond ‘half-decent’ and still it felt derogatory.  So there it is. I got some (half-decent) free books. If you ask me the whole world is ‘half-decent’ or else we’d all be perfect. Half Light/Half dark? Half this or that? Half Beast/Half God? There’s no such thing as ‘half-decent’, or if it is so then we are all merely ‘half-decent’ writers in a ‘half-decent’ world. We are what we are: everything and not. I asked his ‘boss’ (lovely lady) to just have her tone down his VOLUME. A reverse ‘Spinal Tap’ of sorts. An afternoon of book-browse adventure. Surely, my mood had something to do with my response, no doubt. However, I surmise that what writers attempt to do is eliminate the ‘half-decent’ into something of a decent life.
I’ll leave myself and you, dear reader, with this by Frank O’Hara, (a male poet instead of a tendency to default in support of women writers) because he has always struck me as the sort of poet that distinctly wrote to suspend that ‘half’ from such a ‘half-decent’ existence we call life.
Today
Oh! kangaroos, sequins, chocolate sodas!
You really are beautiful! Pearls,
harmonicas, jujubes, aspirins! all
the stuff they’ve always talked about
still makes a poem a surprise!
These things are with us every day
even on beachheads and biers. They
do have meaning. They’re strong as rocks.
Frank O’Hara
[1950]
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