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Two conversations. - Elf M. Sternberg
Two conversations.
This weekend I had two conversations that, together, intrigued me to no end. The first was from an acquaintance I'd made recently who, after knowing me for six months through another friend, finally came up and said, "You know, ten years ago when I read your stuff I realized that I didn't have to live a normal life."

I was a bit stunned. I never know what to say about such things; I live in this dichotomous world where on the one hand I believe that saying what you mean and not being withdrawn or ashamed of who you are is the kind of thing that changes the world; on the other hand I remain a little shocked that people seem to believe I'm one of the people saying those kinds of world-changing stuffs. I thanked her, and blushed a bit, and really wished I knew more about how to handle those circumstances.

The other came from an old reader who wrote that she was "unfriending" my blog because she was hoping for things like The Journal Entries and, instead, found that I'd given up my exciting, kinky, heroic existence for endless days of wiping my kids' noses and driving them to school.

Hey, having kids is pretty damned heroic. It's taking responsibility for not just your own life, but the life of another. it's having faith in a future that'll be better or just as good as the past. It is commitment. And it's an adventure, a twisty maze of passages, all different, as they get older and more complicated and more human.

"It's like if Spiderman took off the costume, got a nine-to-five job, got old and fat and bald and eventually died, a burned-out bitter old man. I'd hate a story like that. It's depressing."

Clues in small doses: There is no Spiderman; there are only mere mortal human beings. Being "true to yourself" does not mean playing "fuck the system" every last day of your life. Finding your way through life, finding a way to feed yourself (not to mention a family!) and still be satisified with your day-to-day existence, that's tough work.

And here's the last clues: wannabe heroes suck. Real heroes may be crafted in a heartbeat by circumstance, but wannabe heroes get people killed. It is the desire for "a better world by hook or by crook" that creates monsters. The road to Hell and all that. The world is messier than a comic book.

Still, I'm having the best revenge. My life is both happier and calmer than hers.

Current Mood: thoughtful thoughtful
Current Music: Mike Oldfield, Crisis

8 comments or Leave a comment
jenkitty From: jenkitty Date: November 29th, 2004 06:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
Now wait just a cotton-pickin' minute. Obviously your friend hasn't been paying attention to Spider-Man lately, either in movie form or JMS's excellent comic books. The whole idea behind Spidey, or any well-written superhero these days, is that they are meshing their super-lives and their everyday lives. Just like you do. You go to work, come home and wipe noses and give baths and read bedtime stories, and still try to be a husband to your lovely bride in the manner she prefers. You take time out to go hiking with me on a drizzly Saturday. And you still spend what time you can on your writing, hiding your pornographic alter-ego behind "that weird computer guy on the bus."

*chuckles* It occurs to me that the lesson of The Incredibles is what happens when you try to take something that's that big a part of your life and stuff it in the closet, forget about it and be "normal." You end up either losing a vital part of yourself and becoming burnt out and empty, or it bursts out in inappropriate ways and threatens to destroy the rest of your life. Or both.

You are a hero. Just ask Kouryou-chan. ;)
tonyawinter From: tonyawinter Date: November 29th, 2004 08:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
In a way, I think of your having kids and raising them well as another triumph over conformity. :)
intrepid_reason From: intrepid_reason Date: November 29th, 2004 09:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
"Being "true to yourself" does not mean playing "fuck the system" every last day of your life."

My comment to her would be...
How can you be true to yourself when you whole existence is focused on being the opposite. Is that not a sort of conformity? I am the Mistress of my fate, the Captain of my destiny! Contrariness bedamned, by rebelling constantly against the "system" you are just allowing the "system" to continue to control your choices you twit!
mothball_07 From: mothball_07 Date: November 29th, 2004 09:43 pm (UTC) (Link)


...I said you gave me hope. I was busy with my first young child, parenting with someone I wasn't very compatible with, and wondering if this was really all there was. I was unhappy, but there were so many social messages that this was life, and I needed to grow up. In fact, how ungrateful of me to want anything beyond a mundane sex life with my dutifully chained co-parent!

Then I'd read your stuff, and I would think "well, even if maybe this doesn't really happen... at least someone else fantasizes about it!" It was one thing that both kept me hanging in, and helped me strive for something that was more *me*. Something I could be happy with.

It took me a decade to get there, but saturday sort of epitomized that "something." Family time with my lover, his wife, and his extended family... Your writing helped me refuse to settle, and I wanted to share how grateful I am. Your writing actually made a difference in the shape of my life, and I love the serendipity of you eventually becoming "extended chosen family by proxy" or whatever. :)

And, btw, you were very gracious with the compliment.

Now... about that story with the candy cane.. ;)

- Shasta
mothball_07 From: mothball_07 Date: December 1st, 2004 05:46 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Technically...

I've been thinking about this and wanted to clarify something... your writing years ago helped me keep striving for something better for me personally.

But meeting you and finding out that you have kids, a family, an apple tree that needs pruning... it serves as some sort of model for integrating the 'mundane' with the 'exotic' being possible. I adore my kids. My life would be much poorer without them. But I also need to be able to be me.

Insisting on doing both of those things *is* heroic. Good job, Elf!
nbarnes From: nbarnes Date: November 30th, 2004 12:05 am (UTC) (Link)
"It's like if Spiderman took off the costume, got a nine-to-five job, got old and fat and bald and eventually died, a burned-out bitter old man."

That's not what happened, though. I mean, point the first; you were never a super hero. You were a writer (and I say that as another person who's life you changed). And, to be clear, I misstated that deliberately, because you are still a writer and still writing the JE, among other things. You are not fat, bald, burned-out, bitter, nor particularly old. If anything, the arc of your life is that it's possible to marry and breed without turning into a Bush voter or sacrificing what was important to you before the kids arrived.

I thought that the message of The Incredibles was that if an 8-year-old invents his own rocket boots in order to stalk you, be very careful to make sure he gets proper attention and outlets for his creativity. One good gifted course at Buddy's 3rd grade school would have saved a world of trouble.
From: j5nn5r Date: November 30th, 2004 02:26 am (UTC) (Link)
Although you do it so well, avoid the temptation to explain yourself.

This applies to you.

Heroes, real ones (like you), don't have to explain themselves.

velvet_wood From: velvet_wood Date: November 30th, 2004 08:01 pm (UTC) (Link)

For a conflicting viewpoint...

I didn't add you to my read list for a long time, even though my husband did as soon as he found you, until after I idly scanned his list several times and found you were writing about real things, and it wasn't just an outlet for your fiction. About the third time he sent me a link from your journal, I figured I might as well go ahead and do it, and haven't regretted it a bit. Besides, your kid is _particularly_ cute. Minions....that's just too adorable.

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