Posted by: patti | August 26, 2009

Reality Bites

I have gotten some pretty insane comments on this here blog recently.  When the e-mail notifications popped up, my yay! someone is still reading me even though I haven’t posted in forever turned quickly to Wait, what?

Now, I do not have the time or the energy to engage the ravings of a deranged lunatic.  Do not think for a second that I take this person seriously in any way (and not just because my unhinged commenter is obviously neither a regular nor a close reader of my work).

He, or she, wants me to know that I am not a real woman, and worse, oh worse, that I am not a real writer.  Why?  Because I’ve never had children, I’ve never been married, and I’m far too young to have lived a full life.  And if I think true love is being told I smell good, I am not a real woman because I’ve obviously never known true love.  And I am not a real writer because I won’t respond to insincere, abusive requests to discuss my work.

Clearly! Clearly I am not real.  It’s amazing I have enough substance to operate these laptop keys.

But Fred Brown/Helen Long, whoever you really are, I do want to thank you.  See, your comments got me thinking, and thinking led to scribbling, and scribbling led to writing, and writing makes me feel alive, happy, well-balanced, together, complete, and you see where I’m going with this, like a real woman.

Already wrapped up in the names of things, and already convinced that the name we give a thing gives that thing its meaning, I am half-convinced our names, our labels, are more real than we are.

All of this assumes that any of us can define what “real” is.

So here’s where I am starting: a woman is human.  Also human, usually, sometimes, are writers.  Writers, like women, being human, make mistakes.  And when necessary, when they are mature enough, they recognize those mistakes and apologize.  (I have serious doubts Fred/Helen will apologize for the abuse, but hope springs eternal and all that.)

But a real woman, a real writer?  Never, ever, explains herself.  Her work, her actions, her words, they speak for themselves.  Right or wrong, real or pretend, fact or fiction, they stand, alone, doing what they were sent out into the world to do: to live, to breathe, to give meaning.  They tell stories.  They are stories.

My lover dozes in my bed as I write, coated in our sweat, my wet.  Fully content, tasting me in his sleep.  His arms reaching for me, even in sleep wishing I were curled in his arms instead of scribbling stories.  Does that make me a real woman, because I can exhaust and please a man?  Yes.  And no.

I do not want children.  I never have.  I have pretended, tried it on, but I know my own heart, and there is no room for them. I adore my niece and plan on spoiling her and being the coolest aunt ever (and my own aunts have set the “coolest ever” bar pretty freaking high); I do know how to love children.  I just don’t want them around all the time.  They are messy, nosy, noisy, and expensive.  Does that make me less of a real woman, because I do not want children?  No.  And yes.

So, you see, the definition of a real woman can be elusive and deeply personal.  But this is not:  A real woman not only knows the difference between want and need, but also understands that how we behave in the margin between the two lets the world know how very real, how very human, how very whole, we are.

We do not need anyone else to make us whole; we cannot define ourselves by our relationship with another person.  Mother, lover, sister, wife, niece, aunt – we all stand alone, and must live with our actions and desires and thoughts and choices completely on our own.

But oh, the joy, the relief, the comfort, when we find that one person who can place a supporting hand in the tender small of our back, who can, with one touch, let us know that standing alone does not mean standing unconnected, unprotected.

I am very sure that, as Fred/Helen tried to school me, every man has told every woman at some time that she smells good.  But either Fred/Helen missed the point of my tiny post or my little experiment failed – I’m willing to admit either possibility.

I wanted to capture the sweetest, purest experience of wordless comfort, that easy intimacy that can only be found after years of closeness.  In a relationship that contains so many words, spoken and unspoken, when your partner feels that your very essence is the definition of comfort, of home, of good. Well.  That, oh that, is so real, and maybe you have to have experienced it yourself in order to understand.

My blog, my rules, and I say that’s not explaining myself.



  1. I’m with you. I feel the same way…and if “they” don’t like it?…I don’t care.

  2. Personally, I think that anyone who receives such bizarre criticism and turns it into beautiful new material, as you have done, is my definition of a writer!

  3. Thank you all so much! All of the comments on this piece, public and private, have been relentlessly positive and supportive — quite a wonderful boost, and I am so, so grateful.

    And Fred/Helen is quiet, for now.

    Guess I’ll have to keep writing. 🙂

  4. New here. Admittedly, I have not read the comments that sparked your post (and probably won’t bother), but I very much enjoyed the poetic response! Kudos!

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