Sooooo…. "33 Women" did not turn out at all like I expected. And I don’t know really how to start summarizing it. I haven’t delved into biographical material in a very long time and never to this extent, for 30 days. The idea for the project came to me way back in 2014. I imagined the set would be very light and fun. In my head they would be just hanging-out poems.
But every single day I was forced to confront the value of all my friendships with these amazing people, what they gave me or how they directed me somehow. And some days I wasn’t really ready for it. But I had a strict self-directive to keep the poems chronological, so I did it but....things got heavy, man. I can only attribute it to recent events and affections.
Needless to say, life has been stressful lately. Work has been shockingly stressful. And I’ve been indulging in the basic comforts of TV sitcoms, which I don’t think I’ve watched since Thursday nights of The Cosby Show and Seinfeld (and we all know how that ended). But I’ve been specifically finding a show called The Goldbergs very comforting and I’ve binged watched about 5 years of episodes in 4 months. This is heavy nostalgia-therapy. Likewise, I’ve been a superfan of Schitt’s Creek for a few years, (I just bought the key chain; it’s a real piece of Schitt), and that show is very similar to The Goldbergs in their inclusion of highly emotional and unabashedly sentimental moments. When I first started watching The Goldbergs, (which I did because I’ve always found George Segal exceptionally charming, and he does not disappoint here), I would cry at the end of each formulaic episode! It was maddening and wonderful all at the same time. The same can be said for the last two seasons of Schitt’s Creek, which I started watching because I'm a fan of Eugene Levy, Catharine O'Hara and Chris Elliot (all in one show!), but have since developed super crushes on Eugene's real-life son Dan Levy (David) and his fictional sister Annie Murphy (Alexis). These shows make me feel all the feels (as my Millennial colleague likes to say). It all seems like a much needed backlash against posing and the post-modernist antipathy toward feeling feels.
I’m sure this was an influence in my swerve toward tear-jerking, end statements. It may be true, the saying about “no tears for the writer, no tears for the reader” but I've never been particularly interested in creating my own weepers, because as a Generation X human, I'm overly steeped in such posturing and post-modern anti-feels.
Adn you might think the #Metoo movement also influenced this set. The project was planned years ago and just happened to cue up this year. #Meoo was not even a thing. However, I can see traces of influence all through the poems. For one thing, the titles would never have been simply names of women, the common wisdom demanding titles more enticing and varied. But this year I felt very strongly about giving these poems the names of their persons. That was pure #Metoo tribute. It was also some #Metooness to shove the boys into the backseet (literally) very early on, and they stayed there. At least two of the friendships depicted were actually part of triad friendships with a boy member. And I decided to focus on the girl to girl part of it exclusively. I also sought out positive markers of these relationships, which I may not have done last year. And I couldn’t always pull it off but I started with that intention.
It was the same exhausting gauntlet of sweat it always is doing NaPoWriMo in April, just with an added layer of emotional stress. Considering all the drama going on, I’m amazed I made it through them all. I'm sure I have some new gray hairs to show for it.
Here’s the full set:
When I Was a Bird (Laura) -- This poem was written for a 2013 NaPoWriMo challenge but could easily fit here between Jayne and Diana.
- Rebecca Nurse
- Mrs. Eichorn
- The Girls of UMSL
- Mean Girls
- Screen Star Girls
- The Girl on the Train
- Letter to Michele, the original story and poem
In the spirit of girlfriends, I’d like to close with this clip sent to me recently by a very good new friend named Mikaela when we were discussing our mutual love of Kristen Wig.
Thank you Michele. This year’s NaPoWriMo journey was an extraordinary one for me and you inspired it many years ago with the inscription you left in your gift to me the day I left that company with the shark-tank lady. What surprises your friendship continues to provide. I will never forget you.