Student Aaron Curtis on Editing

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     You’ve heard the saying, the hardest thing about creating art is knowing when it’s finished?


     Well, that’s why editing takes so long. 


    Every house looks the same. The houses all look alike. Each house looks like any other. The houses are interchangeable. The houses are as uniform as scattered pennies. The houses all look the same. I can’t tell which house is which. The houses are as anonymous as their owners. Each house looks the same. All the houses are the same. The houses are all the same. If the houses have even minor differences, it would take an expert in architecture to spot them. Looking at the houses, I can’t tell which is the one I grew up in and which are my neighbors; they are as like and lifeless as prison cells. Every house looks like every other house. The houses share an eerie similarity. The houses are striking in their similarity. The houses are so similar, even the residents need to check the numbers to find their way home. The uniformity of the houses is such that it’s difficult to imagine one of them singled out as home. Each house is the same. Every house looks alike.  The houses are more alike than brothers, making the street difficult to navigate. The houses share a look.  


    I could keep going, but I think I’ve made my point. You need to make choices, and you need to live with them. The first half is easier. If you’re lucky, if you’ve written true enough in the surrounding sentences, there will be one clear winner.

For More AARON CURTIS, listen to Episode 32, Episode 45, and you can find him on his blog, Sweet with Fall and Fish.

The Scale

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By Margery Berger

My scale is always with me. It was with me when I went away to college, when my mother died, when my children were born and when my marriage ended after 28 years. I spend time with it every morning, every night, before bed and often at some other point during the day if I change my clothes.

I’ve been weighing myself since 7th grade. I did the math--that’s 48 years times 365 days, times two, which equals 35,040 weigh-ins. That’s not counting the additional times I weighed myself when I changed my clothes.

I’ve picked up a few other rituals through the years. I sleep with my iPad in case I need to read in the middle of the night. I don’t touch doorknobs without covering my hand with my sleeve. I hate using the pen things on credit card processors to sign my name especially at the pharmacy.  Who knows how many people picking up Tamaflu touched it before me? If I have to, I’ll use my trusty hand sanitizer I keep in my purse. And the scale, I still eat and go on vacations, as long as I have it with me.

At 12, since I didn’t have my own scale, I would go into my parents’ bathroom, shut the door and strip down to my underwear. I stepped on the scale first thing in the morning, when I got home from tennis and again after dinner. If I weighed 88 instead of 87, I’d exercise more and eat a little less.

At sleepaway camp in Maine, I’d head up to the infirmary, before breakfast, where the scale was on the front porch. One summer--I can’t remember if I was 13 or 14--I grew almost 4 inches and lost 8 pounds. I went from 92 to 84 lbs. I wasn’t fat before that, but I wasn’t one of those kids who looked like a noodle with knees either. When I got home from camp, my mother told me how great I looked. I liked my new skinny body. A few years later, boys liked it too.

My weighing ritual hasn’t changed much through the years, except, of course, I no longer have to sneak into my parents’ bathroom to do it.

I take off my watch and my clothes, but I leave my underwear on if I’m not going to take a shower. Sometimes, I take out my ponytail rubber band, though I know it doesn’t weigh anything. I pee, even if I don’t have to, because I might weigh less after peeing. When I was pregnant, the nurse at the obstetrician’s office wasn’t surprised when I took off my jewelry and whatever else I could. She said all the skinny ones do that.

Twenty years ago, we took the kids on a 10 day ski trip to Vail, a  long time to be away from my scale. I found a travel scale at Bed, Bath and Beyond. I justified the purchase by thinking I’d enjoy what I ate more if I knew how much I weighed. Unfortunately, the scale beeped every time I stepped on it, broadcasting my not-so-secret weigh-ins to my family through the closed bathroom door. Immediately afterwards, I would put it back in my suitcase, out of sight, not wanting to impart my bad habit to my 11-year-old daughter. I didn’t want to give her the message that being thin is the only way to be.

I’ve since found a better, quieter travel scale—a sleek looking, non-beeping digital one. It has a protective sleeve and fits neatly in my carry-on. That matters to me--I’m a good packer. The type that reads articles about the virtues of folding or rolling clothes and I have lots of Container Store inserts to keep my suitcase in perfect order. That’s off the scale topic... Or is it? People with eating disorders have control issues.

My travel scale comes with me whether I’m going for a few days or a few weeks. I always feel anxious as it goes through the screening machines. On the few occasions when my bag has been flagged, the TSA person finds my travel scale, takes it out of its case, rubs that thing over it that checks for dangerous chemicals and asks, “What’s this?”

“It’s a scale,” I say, and feel my face heat up. I want to think of an excuse, like it’s a gift for the friend I’m visiting or I need it for medical reasons. The scrutiny and embarrassment are worth it to me. I’ll know how much I weigh.

I keep a backup 9 volt battery in my toiletry case. There’s always a possibility that the travel scale battery will go dead. It would be difficult to find a 9 volt battery in the middle of Vietnam, and even harder to explain why I need it.

In 1992, I inherited the best bathroom scale ever from my father-in-law, the medical kind, and it looked so good in our black and white tile bathroom. When it broke about a year ago, I ponied up $488 for a worthy replacement. Bc I couldn’t trust a lowly $20 digital scale, no matter how good the online reviews were.

How did this obsession with the scale begin? Was it creepy cousin Ira’s comment, when I was 8? “You have such a pretty face, but you’d look better if you were skinnier.” Or was it images of Twiggy, the model, or the skinny Mary Tyler Moore or the gorgeous, but eating-disordered Audrey Hepburn?  Or was it my stepfather telling me I had a Jewish figure, code for not skinny? Or is this compulsion to weigh myself hard wired into my brain. like OCD? Maybe all of the above.

I remember how much I weighed for each of the major events in my life:  At 5’5”, I was thin at 116 pounds, my weight when I got married and when I got pregnant with both of my kids. I gained exactly 25 pounds each time, and lost the weight within 2 weeks of giving birth, both times. In 1986, I exercised to Jane Fonda’s video while my 1 week old daughter napped in her bassinet.

The most I ever weighed, non-pregnant, was my senior year of college. After a winter blizzard and lots of Entenmann’s cookies, I ballooned up to 128 pounds. When I got home from college that spring, my mother said, “You got chunky.”

My future husband/now ex-husband used to remind me regularly that he remembered the noise my corduroy pants made as my thighs rubbed together during that heftier time. For years he said, “You look much better thinner.” He said, “I wasn’t as attracted to you then.”

Now, I leave food on my plate. Many of my friends watch what I don’t eat. Some say to the others at the table, “She doesn’t eat.” or say to me “I wish I could be like you and have willpower.”

I explain, “I’m a grazer, I had a banana before I came. I ate a bunch of mint chocolate malted milk balls from Fresh Market. They’re my favorite.” Again, the scrutiny, while uncomfortable, is worth it.

Running helps. I can weigh myself before a run, then again after, and be a pound and a half less. the morning my marriage blew up, I had trouble catching my breath, but I ran. I told myself it was therapeutic, and sometimes running helps me think more clearly, but I ran that day, like I do on lots of other days, so I can see the number drop on the scale. I weighed 112 that day. I stayed at 111 for the next 6 years. Now, I weigh less. This morning, 107.  

I can’t control my wrinkles or my age spots or my kids or my ex, but I can control my weight.

*     *     *

This story was read by Margery Berger on Episode 46: An Object is Not Just an Object. Click to listen.

 

 

Dear Person...Cheating & Hiding, a Letter About Phones

Maya Kieffer is a Writing Class Radio podcast student, bookseller, writing teacher in prison and the creator of Dear Person, an advice blog. Below, an excerpt from her blog.

Dear Person Week Four

Dear Person wants YOUR letter!!!

Dear Person,

I am a 35 year old woman and have been married to my husband for six years. We have two young boys, and our relationship has been strained for about a year. Lately I’ve become suspicious of my husband’s friendship with a coworker. 

He started mentioning her name more and more this year, and one night I couldn’t help myself.

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I looked through his text messages and saw two messages from the co-worker saying “Here’s my number for when you’re  lonely :)” and “You know what they say about things people do when they’re drinking…”

There was no reply from my husband and these were the only texts from this woman. I don’t know if he’s cheating on me, but I have so many questions. Do I tell him I read his text messages? Should I ask if he’s cheating? I’m embarrassed that I read them at all but I want to confront him about this woman.

Sincerely,

Ashamed of Snooping

 

Dear Ashamed,

I feel pretty strongly about this. You must tell him. Yes, invading the privacy of someone you’ve committed to partnering with is a destructive move, but your mistake doesn’t negate your husband’s behavior. You cannot un-pick up the phone and un-read those text messages, so there’s no reason to dwell on the wrongness of the act itself. You’ve done it already. Shame will not serve you half as well as honesty.

I am not speaking from a place of judgement, Ashamed. Far from it. I can clearly remember a former me, hunched over an ex-lover’s phone, thumbs shaking and breath shallow as I clicked through his private conversations.

One morning (because I usually did this in the morning, while he was taking a shower) I found something I’d been looking for. It was a confirmation of a needling suspicion: my boyfriend had indeed been hiding something from me.

The striking thing about that morning is not what I found or that I found it, but how I felt once I did: relieved.

Relieved because the distance between us had a recognizable shape, something tangible to blame. Relieved that I was right, he’d stopped touching me for a reason, he was not just “stressed about work” —  and relieved because I didn’t have to continue pretending to be satisfied in my relationship. It was, for me, the excuse I thought I needed to blow shit up.

Click to read full Dear Person's full response.

Comment

allison langer

Allison Langer, MBA, travelled the States taking pictures, later worked for a ski photographer, then took pictures of her friends and their babies. This was the start of a 20-year photography business. She also taught high school photography and entrepreneurship. As her students wrote their business plans, she wrote hers to create a podcast about her writing class, which is now Writing Class Radio.

Dear Person...The Raging Feminist Inside Me.

Maya Kieffer is a Writing Class Radio podcast student, bookseller, writing teacher in prison and the creator of Dear Person, an advice blog. Below, an excerpt from her blog.

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Dear Person Week 3

Dear Person,

I’m just a woman seeking a birth control method that isn’t going to torture me and destroy my body. I’ve been on different birth control pills since I was 16 years old; at first for acne and then to “help” with ovarian cysts. In February, I decided to swap my pills for a hormonal IUD. It was okay for the first 3 months, but now I’m getting cysts again. I’m in so much pain and in and out of the ER constantly. If I take it out, ovulation will cause cysts, but if I leave it in, the IUD will cause cysts. I can go back on the pill, but it makes me moody and heightens my anxiety.

I truly don’t think enough research has been done on birth control methods and the female body in general. Is there such a thing as a doctor who knows what they’re talking about in this regard? The raging feminist inside me is furious with the fact that men don’t have to deal with this shit. I’m feeling totally lost and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life hopping from symptom to symptom, all for the sake of pregnancy prevention. Part of me just wants to say, “fuck it,” and go off everything and just deal if I start getting cysts again.

I realize you’re not a doctor (as far as I know), but I wondered if you had any advice on how to navigate this under-researched and over-medicated territory.

Thanks.

-Painfully Frustrated

 

Dear Frustrated,

I am so sorry to hear about how much pain you’re in, dear. Some people have bodies that allow them to move through the world easily and without pain, and others simply don’t. To make matters worse, many of us in the “don’t” category happen to have uteruses. I’m not going to tell you that your suffering is noble or that you’ll learn valuable lessons from it. There’s enough of that rhetoric floating around already, and most of it is bullshit.

You’re right that I am not a doctor, but I think the raging feminist in me can at least sit on the couch and talk with your feminist for a little while, and maybe afterward we’ll both feel a little less angry and a little more hopeful.

Like most teenagers, Frustrated, I spent a significant amount of time watching and imitating people I thought were cooler than me. At sixteen I wasn’t really a person at all, I was more like a wire figure covered in a patchwork quilt of my heroes’ habits. Patti Smith wore black? I wore black. James Joyce wrote his manuscripts in blue crayon? I wrote in pen because I didn’t know who the fuck James Joyce was until college.

Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Anyway. . .

Click to read full Dear Person's full response.

 

Comment /Source

allison langer

Allison Langer, MBA, travelled the States taking pictures, later worked for a ski photographer, then took pictures of her friends and their babies. This was the start of a 20-year photography business. She also taught high school photography and entrepreneurship. As her students wrote their business plans, she wrote hers to create a podcast about her writing class, which is now Writing Class Radio.