Illustration by Chloe Cushman
The Literary Life of RA Dickey
“I’ll never forget my first public book signing,” he says. “I’ll bet no less than 15 or 20 people in that line leaned across the table, people I’d never even seen before that day, to tell me they were abused at some point in their past, and I was the first person that they had ever told. Or that they were going to go home and tell their spouse. There’s this interesting dichotomy going on. It makes you incredibly sad because it reminds you of your own wounds, but at the same time it makes you incredibly happy because here’s a person who is taking one step closer to freedom. That was one of the things that helped me take the next step as a pitcher. Getting out from a life that had been really in the dark and in the shadows. It helped me to live openly and without shame. And that really did a lot for me on the mound.”
Read the rest at The Afterword (The National Post.)
In the National Post:
…People asked me why I hadn’t taken my husband’s name. When we met with a mortgage broker he wouldn’t look me in the eye or address me directly. Mail came to the house addressed to “Mrs. His First Name His Last Name” and “The His Last Name Household.” When I went to a job interview I was asked if, because I was recently married, I was planning on going on maternity leave. I would go to events and parties and people would always ask me where my husband was. These are small things, I know, most of which could be argued are not worthy of complaint — surely feminism has bigger things to worry about? But I saw them as tiny erasures of self, together carving out a loss. I could find no peace in this thing I had been told repeatedly by the mainstream was, next to mothering, the ultimate accomplishment for women. It is a question that Friedan herself articulates about her own life choices: “I felt a strange uneasiness; there was a question that I did not want to think about. Is this really what I want to be? The question shut me off, cold and alone …”
While my husband told me he was experiencing a new kind of respect, an increased trust from business associates because he wore a ring; I instead felt a disappearing of who I thought I was. There was a new burden to perform a role I wasn’t accustomed to, and perhaps didn’t even want — it was promoted by every piece of media I consumed, whether women’s magazine articles, filmic portraits of perfect families or well-coiffed wives Swiffering floors during the commercial break. It paralyzed me, this sudden preoccupation with wifely duties and responsibilities, bedding sets and baking pies, to be good at things I never cared about. And while everyone, including, of course, my husband, said, “Well, then don’t care about those things,” there was still an inexplicable push to perform as perfect, a nameless pressure I found impossible to articulate.
The worst of it was that being disappointed with these expectations, the opportunities of a new shiny life of blissful perfected domesticity, made me feel guilty, suggested I was ungrateful, that I was broken and sick of mind — much like Friedan’s subjects. One of them expresses well the feeling of marital floundering I felt, this idea that I could never fulfill the role properly: “I want so badly to feel like the other girls. I never get over this feeling of being a neophyte, not initiated. When I get up and have to cross a room, it’s like I’m a beginner, or have some terrible affliction, and I’ll never learn…”
As writers feel more and more pressure to be 24/7, real-time public figures, we need to consider those who are disclosure-averse, who prefer to hide away and let their work stand as they have constructed it. We commonly celebrate living openly as a courageous act, being “thick-skinned” as a virtue, yet some people’s mental health (and ability to produce great writing) is intimately connected to a fundamental need for privacy. In embracing an accessible digital age, with countless instructional blog posts about how to gleefully “put yourself out there,” we are inadvertently suggesting that those who create boundaries and limits are both cowardly and doomed to fail.
Dick Wolf: The Entertainer (Illustration by Andrew Barr)
Over the years, the show’s plot twists have become increasingly complex and absurd, with rappers eaten by hyenas and serial impregnators blown up with pressurized diving knives. If a crime happened in the headlines it’s pretty much guaranteed to pop up on the show — everyone from Paul Bernardo to Dominique Strauss-Kahn has made a fictionalized appearance. Law & Order has become a fixture in how we process and cope with real world criminal atrocity, and I have seen every single episode.
“A man in a clown suit delivers a pizza to his dying, Vogue-reading boyfriend. He places the pizza on the bed and retreats to the bathroom to remove his wig, and upon examining his dandruff thinks, “Even in the midst of life, we are in death.” From there, the narrative evolves to encompass the lives of three siblings, each gripping tightly the life they have haphazardly constructed, and each about to experience those lives coming undone.”