For nearly 18 years, Tolkien has been my literary idol. His words are lyrical and intellectual and as poetic as prose can be with neither rhyme nor meter. His stories are epic and astounding, digging deep into the nature of temptation and good and evil and capturing the heart and hardships of medieval adventure, swords and sorcery. His trilogy has become the standard by which all fantasy trilogies are judged, and it’s to his level of exquisite storytelling that I have long since aspired to achieve.
And I’ve realized now that while his tales may stand the test of time, and may be the most classic of all fantasy stories, not all within his tomes should live so long.
Grading papers. Sitting in a cafe between two tables with chatty white girls on either side of me. I’m not trying to generalize or say they were basic, but could a conversation get more bland? Even unintentionally overhearing them, I craved a little salt on my tongue.
So the girl on my left, she starts saying that maybe she’ll become a teacher, and she, like, read this article about things you don’t know about teaching until you teach, and like, “I know you get the summers off, but I don’t know if I could go three months without a paycheck.” And I was like, girl, forgive my intrusion, but let me tell you how it really is.
A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a Kickstarter campaign for a collection of books called Being ManKind–an intentional lapse of grammatical convention. The series tries to break free of gendered norms and stereotypes, the toxic masculinity we’ve all come to hate.
I’ve been wanting to write about why I support the project and why I think you should, too, but it’s been busy. So much of the last few weeks has gone straight into dealing with that kind of gender bias (in the classroom) that I haven’t had a second to write.
Now there’s little more than sixteen hours to go, and to be successfully funded, it needs to bring in about a thousand dollars every hour until it ends.
So, sure, there’ll be an ask at the end, but there’s (kinda) a story until we get there, too.
By which I mean it’s the beginning of the year. I’ve moved to a new city–with all the hassles that come from being the good tenant who follows those disastrous ones you see on HGTV who left the place a god-forsaken wreck–and I’ve begun a new job.
When I began this journey, I promised I would offer no vindication, and to this I feel I remained true. I stripped aside the commentary and let it fall out as I remembered it–sometimes building beautifully harrowing images, other times feeling I fell short in capturing the turmoil I truly felt. But I did my best, and I’m thankful I made it this far.
But there are still more sides to this story, some that slip outside the narrow keyhole through which I looked back this past week, and these stories need to be shared.
Did I tell you about that time I went to something called Art Outside the Box? It was one of the kick-off events here at N.C. State’s homecoming and it was a gathering of artists and non-artists who wanted to try their hands at art. It was amazing! I got to eat free food (every college kid’s dream in life), I got to turn recycled paper into a pumpkin, hold hands with clay between our palms, walk through an art museum, and turn a rod of glass into a brilliant glass bead. I got to spend the afternoon trying new things–and it was amazing.
But isn’t that enough? I mean, it’s only “art” after all. Right?
Let me be honest with you: I’ve lost count of all the nicknames I’ve garnered over the years, especially the years since I’ve started college. There’s the insubstantial–sweetie, cutie–to the meaningful-because-of-who-uses-them–pumpkin, love, muffin–to the comical–D-rab (like Arab, a nickname I somehow stumbled into in Israel), Strongman (which is funny because it’s true even though I’ve never seen myself as much of a pinnacle of strength), Breaks (long story)–even to the slightly-offensive-if-taken-in-the-wrong-way–of which Gay Jew Dude is still my favorite. Then there’s Mr. President. That one sits in a category all its own.
And please, don’t salute.
I use: love, dear, sweetie on occasion.
I often wonder: Is this inequality a lack of reciprocation, or is there something more to it than that? Is a name really just a name, or does it bear more weight than that? We all know Shakespeare–“A rose by any other name…”–but do we all know each other, if one name weighs the same as another?