Many people before me have compared book writing and publishing to child rearing. The metaphor is an apt one on any number of fronts. For me, the biggest though is this: neither book writing nor parenting has been remotely what I expected.
And I did not go into either one -- especially parenting -- either starry eyed or naive. And yet, I have been wrong and wrong and wrong again about both at every turn. My guesses, my expectations, my anticipations are constantly thwarted and therefore disappointed. Between one and the other (which, together, make up a portion of my brain space nearing 97%), I spend most of my life surprised, shocked, blindsided, and just plain wrong.
One of the things I was wrong about was kindergarten. I was expecting blocks and singing and art projects. Then we got D's first report card and learned she was slightly underperforming in algebra. (Note I feel I must add: she brought that algebra grade up by the second report card.)
Another thing that's been surprising about kindergarten is there's homework. In the way of predictability, I would like to offer exhibit A, a sample of D's kindergarten homework. The assignment was to write up how to make your bed. She wrote this:
She does. She sleeps with a lot of animals. Also her bed is really high off the ground so hard to make. Also she sleeps under a comforter only, so there's not much making to do. That is not my point though. Here is my point: I helped with this homework; I spelled "animals" for her. The apostrophe in "don't" and the correct form of "too" however were all her. This puts her ahead of a large percentage of my former college students already, and she's only five. (Suck on that, algebra. Good grammar? Totally useful in daily life. Algebra? Haven't used it since high school.)
D and I made muffins for breakfast the other day, and when she presented them proudly to her father, D added that when she grows up and gets married, her husband or wife will be so happy to be married to someone who can cook.
I learned long ago that most of what D does is not something I should either take credit or blame myself for. It's probably not my fault. It's probably nothing I did right either. She is, like so much of life, out of my control for the most part. But these are the things that make us proud around here. Proud and hopeful and, well, a little surprised.
I want love stories. This is what I want. I want books I read to be love stories. I want my movies and TV to be love stories. I want plays I go see to be love stories. If I played video games, I'd want them to be love stories.
My own story is a love story.
Which is maybe what I have found so can't-look-away miraculous and wonderful about all the photos of gay weddings this week in Seattle.
Marriage licenses became available to all last Wednesday night at midnight. Did Seattle open the offices where one procures marriage licenses at midnight? Of course they did.
There is a three day waiting period to get married in Washington after one has a license. Did Seattle open the courthouse at midnight Saturday night, and did judges come in all day Sunday, their day of rest and freedom, to perform gay weddings all day and all night? Again, yes they did. As same-sex marriage becomes slowly legal all across the country, there are going to be places like Seattle -- a very gay, very liberal city -- where most people are going to be enthusiastic and delighted.
And then there are going to be places where the celebrations will be less public, more muted, and more closeted. There will be people applying for marriage licenses from authorities who don't want to give them to them. There will be people getting married in towns where they have little public support, where however legal it is, they will still face prejudice and opposition.
But there will also be places simply less public and exuberant than Seattle where same sex marriage will become normalized -- just as celebrated as any other wedding but open only during regular business hours and not stopping downtown traffic in order to get it done. And that's nice too. It's going to be interesting to watch as these dominos fall all across the country.
I am very glad to see same sex marriage legalized in Washington. Because it's fair and right and time. Because the more families we acknowledge as such, the better the world is for everyone. But mostly because of the love.
And what I wonder is this: whether these pictures might be changing hearts and minds. This fight has not exactly been a fair one. The counterarguments have not always been truthful. Scare tactics have been employed. And I wonder whether people who are anti same-sex marriage, some of them, looked at these pictures this week and thought: Oh. No goats. No people trying to wed their pets. No lewdness. It doesn't, in fact, look like porn. It doesn't look anti child or anti family.
It's hard to look at these pictures and think they look unnatural. It's hard to look at these pictures and find them threatening. If you backburner the politics and the what a long time this has been coming, mostly it just looks like people getting married.
They look really happy. They smile a lot. They look at each other like love. They have families and friends in tow. They look a little uncomfortable because they're more dressed up than usual. They look a little uncomfortable because there are all these people looking at them. They look older than a lot of wedding photo couples because they've had to wait so long. They often have their children with them -- same reason. But overwhelmingly, more than anything, they just look normal. Like a love story -- extraordinary from the inside, typical from the outside. And seriously, who in their right mind objects to more love? It's not just what the world needs now. It's what the world needs always. Obviously.
Online Echo Chamber
This appeared late last week in my Twitter feed from HuffPost Books:
QOTD: "If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking." --Haruki Murakami
I a) love this and b) agree with it, and c) the next book, whenever I find time to write it, comes at least in part from a similar sentiment. The whole online echo chamber theory, well, it echoes for me. And it's scary. The argument is that as we get more and more of our news and ideas and philosophies and opinions and information and life approaches and narratives -- stories -- from Facebook and Twitter and other social media sites where we choose our friends and choose who to follow, the range of said ideas and stories gets narrower and narrower. We are friends with people who think like we do. They are friends with people who think like they/we do. We and they are all passing back and forth the same tidbits of information, liking and retweeting and sharing the same articles and notes and opinions and stories. Plus every time we say anything, everyone we know "likes" it and tells us how lovely and clever we are, not just because they're friends but because they actually agree. Not enough new ideas can muscle in through all that familiarity.
Maybe they should call it the Narcissus Chamber. Which one of these kids looks most pleased with their own opinions and ideas?
This versus, say, you used to read the newspaper that was your town or city's paper. I grew up between Baltimore and DC and so read the Baltimore Sun and the Washington Post. They got delivered to my door. In theory, the news they delivered was broad, unbiased, wide-reaching, multi-opinioned, and multi-perspectived. It was also, importantly, researched, vetted, double-checked, edited, proofread, and held to standards of truth. This is not, of course, true of my Facebook and Twitter feeds.
Social media and the internet generally are sold to us as great levelers of playing fields and democratizers of ideas and access. Once, you had to own a newspaper to get your voice and ideas heard. Now, all you need is access to a computer and an internet connection. As receivers of information though, in a lot of ways, we were doing better before. I hear more voices now, but they're all saying the same thing.
You see why that's dangerous and problematic. And disappointing given the freedom and possibilities presented by the web. And insidious given our impression that it's the opposite of what it in fact is.
And yet...last week, when President Obama came out and said he did indeed think same-sex marriage ought to be legal, my Twitter feed did a little dance, my Facebook had a party, the links my people passed on were all laudatory and celebratory and smart from a pro civil rights, pro gay marriage perspective. That's all I wanted to read, and that's all that came across my radar. Was Fox News as thrilled as my social media peeps? Was the Republican Party? I don't know. Because their opinions never crossed my computer screen. My Facebook friends are not anti-gay. My Twitter feed is liberal and loving. It was awesome.
So the question you have to ask yourself is this: is it important for me to seek out dissenting opinions? Important for my education or for being a whole person in the world? A responsible decision maker? Haven't I something to learn from the fifty percent of people in this country who seem to disagree with me about all sorts of political issues? Given that I believe that if only the gay-marriage haters would listen to something other than hate-spewing media, they'd realize the error of their ways, shouldn't I also try to break out of my online echo chamber? Or is it permissible for me and my lower blood pressure to bubble and cocoon and ignore the haters? There's enough broken, enough hate, enough that doesn't go my way in politics, enough that makes me crazy, don't my Twitter feed and I deserve to high five then go out for margaritas and celebrate the ones we win?
About The Author
Laurie Frankel writes novels (reads novels, teaches other people to write novels, raises a small person who reads and would like someday to write novels) in Seattle, Washington where she lives on a nearly vertical hill from which she can watch three different bridges while she's staring out her windows between words. She's originally from Maryland and makes good soup.