I went on a letter writing rampage yesterday and it’s all your fault. Thanks for that.
One of them was to Lorelei Lee about how I want to be a sex performer but I’m a wife and mother in the suburbs of Nashville so I’m settling for burlesque. I wondered if she remembered the names of the songs about prostitution that her grandmother used to sing. I thought I could use them as I develop my act. I’ve since found volumes and volumes of vintage songs about prostitution, cocaine, reefer and other forms of debauchery in Amazon’s mp3 albums. I’m in love.
Another letter was to my grandmother and was a vignette of the mundanities of my day, frozen on a page forever. It’s what she craves from our correspondence because it’s how my mother wrote to her when she was still alive. In essence, I’m a stand in for my mother as far as my grandmother is concerned. A link in the generational chain was removed 17 years ago and she and I were fused together directly. We cling to one another out of a desire to know the woman we both lost a little better. We usually send emails. She almost 93. She doesn’t have a computer, but back in the late 90s when these little typewriter looking email machines were popular, she got one to keep in touch with our generation of family members. But, I know how much happier she is from getting an envelope in her mailbox with one of her grandchildren’s names on it.
Another letter was about how perspective changes everything to Padma Viswanathan and how sometimes, once our perspective is changed, we can never go back to seeing things the way we did before. It’s a blessing and a curse and basically the theme of her letter regurgitated at her in agreement.
Another was about what the January sunset looks like in Nashville and god knows what else to Matthew Specktor. I let my son, who is five, illustrate the last page, asking him to draw something that he’d like to show a stranger.
But I digress. The point is I wrote a bunch of letters yesterday and I have you and the Letters in the Mail writers to thank for that. It feels so good to get things out in the open or to assuage my guilt for not writing my grandmother regularly or finally respond to the backlog of letters I’ve received from Rumpus writers.
Letters can be so liberating. But then there are few things in this world that aren’t liberating if looked at in the right way. Being bound and gagged and strangled can be liberating. Being led around by a chain attached to your nipples like a leash can be liberating. When it’s what you want, you have all the power over the person doing it to you. You control someone else’s desire. When it’s done against your will, the opposite is true. It’s all about context and perspective.
I think one of the reasons I write is to imprison my thoughts and experiences on the page where I can control them. It is the only way I’m able to walk in this world as a free woman. I wrote 6000 words of my sexual history a couple of weeks ago that grows by thousands of words every time I revisit it. I think I have over 10,000 words in that document now. It is my emancipation proclamation. The things in my past that I had no control over no longer control me. I can look at things I’ve done, recognize them for what they were and take responsibility for my part in it, forgive myself and move on.