Sunday, March 23, 2008

the substanitive difference between the written then and the now

One of the perils of having done a lot of stuff you probably shouldn't is that you have a body of knowledge that you have to decide whether or not to share. I chose to share some of mine partially because I read a lot of stories that are incorrect in various ways (for instance, in movies you might see someone who deals and also runs a mini-casino out of their house; in real life, having the gaming department in with the ATF and vice is a very bad bust), and partially because I believe that I am in a writing program to help other writers in whatever ways I can, something I'm going to presume they would do for me. Which occasionally makes me act the fool, because most of the time it has not been worth the bother to try and offer that critique. Most of the people I've been in school with do not have the same experiences, so I feel like I should offer that information, since I'm the only one in the room, that I know of, who can. They don't have to listen, but at least someone has some kind of experience with these matters. However, even possessing these kinds of facts puts me in an uncomfortable position, because a good handful of times now, someone tries to get me to hook them up after class.

The partner and I made a bet at the beginning of this semester; even though it has been years since I've known anyone who could hook anyone up, and even though I'd like to think I don't seem like I'd know anymore, the average time it takes someone to ask me about getting hooked up is about mid-semester. I prefer a beer or a good dirty martini to anything I could get arrested for, especially since I don't drive any more, so in some ways, being asked amuses the hell out of me.

This is more about the cocktail of naivete and presumption that surrounds that request than anything else. This last time, the student who asked was, no doubt, up to something. She hates me. I have no idea why she would think, even if I did know, that I would do something like that for her. I don't want to go to jail at all, but especially not for someone who has been nasty to me. I have already done her a favor by getting her drunk ass home, while she insulted me, keeping her from trying to drive home when she couldn't stand up. She spent the whole ride slipping out of my seatbelt, groping my partner and telling me she finds me disgusting and how she finds me disgusting. In excruciating detail. I can only assume she thinks that the fact that I kept her from getting a DUI, dying or killing someone makes her think I have a soft spot for her.

I'm just sucker enough to have cared, but this group have been as set as any group I've ever met on dying early and possibly taking someone with them.

The problem with writing about the past, the past I am free in describing as such when asked, is that it is often difficult for people to make a distinction between a troubled past and a similarly troubled present. Having done stupid things does not translate into continuing to do stupid things (at least I hope so; I can certainly say I would pass any drug test, since the last thing I took were the painkillers prescribed to me after a surgery.)

There is something insulting in writing about your own mistakes and having people try to get you to repeat those mistakes for their viewing pleasure. Doing drugs, for the greatest part, was a colossal mistake that I am not repeating. I can write about drugs without having to do them again. In fact, much of the pleasure of getting to write about your own mistakes is examining them, in the hope of not repeating them. It is naive to expect that the person who wrote the story does all the same things as the person they are writing the story about, ESPECIALLY IN FICTION (pardon the yelling, but in a writing program, they train you to separate the writer from the writing, and yet there are always idiots who insist on conflating the two. Yes, I've had those experiences. No, I'm not planning on repeating them. And yes, I'm going to write about them, though if I think it's necessary, I'll just not explain anything to the people I'm in class with.)

It is insulting to be treated as if you are not capable of anything else, including things like hindsight and forethought and, you know, an ability to change. It's also insulting to treat the poor characters in your fiction like idiots. The equation works something like this in a lot of the pieces I've read (and this is another reason I often say something) Poor = automatic dealer or hooker = stupid = deserves to die. (But never, never anything that asks about the conditions they have to deal with and is capable of being about the good and the bad.) I really, really hate this equation, and I see it a lot. I realize it's just naivete and a willful inability to contemplate what the American Dream and middle class values do to anyone from a lower class, but I am hesitant to wait for them to grow up (and some of them never do.) And, frankly, that stuff pisses me off.

It is also insulting to have someone, or a group of someones, who have previously spent a great deal of time insulting you, suddenly try to get you to commit a felony for them. No, thank you.

For the billionth time, I'm here to learn. As in, you know, for an education.

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