Sex

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On being random, dismantling and finally updating.

Published June 27, 2016 by mandileighbean

It’s been over two months since the last time I posted, and there’s nothing I want more than to tell you I’ve been doing wonderfully interesting things, that I’ve been really and truly living. But that would be a hyperbole. I’ve been alive, yes, and I’ve done some fun things, yes, but nothing that should keep me from writing.

So let’s catch up, shall we?

I haven’t lost any weight, but I have gained some. I haven’t really been trying, as I’ve felt mostly unmotivated and uninspired lately. Is this summertime sadness? Is this some looming emotional, existential crisis that has finally landed? Am I just melodramatic? Rather than answer these questions, I usually eat a bag of potato chips (the ones that say “Family Size”) and fall asleep on my couch.

I think I’ve identified one behavior that needs to change.

I wish I had a camera that could take quality pictures of the moon and do its beauty justice.

“A heart that hurts is heart that works.”

I don’t fantasize about sex. I fantasize about intimacy; how sad is that?

I think a duck must have a perfect life. They just float on, no matter if the water is calm or choppy. They can take off and fly whenever they want. If the only dunk their heads in the water, they have food. It’s simple and free, and I am envious.

I am done romanticizing broken men, as if loving them adds something noble to my character.

“I don’t hold grudges. I believe that’s the shit that leads to cancer.”

The school year ended on a high note. The senior events I was charged with helping to plan (Mr. Manchester, Senior Prom, graduation) all went off without a hitch. I am proud of the work I’ve done.

“Nothing is ever over.”

I really need to use my upstairs more. I don’t have central air though, so during the summer, the temperature is almost unbearable up there. So I’m in pretentiously self-proclaimed “office,” but it’s dark in here. It’s really dark in my house. I’ll say it’s to keep it cool, since I don’t have central air, but in all honesty, it’s because I’ve been too broke to afford light bulbs and now that I do have money, I’m simply too lazy to buy some and replaced the old ones.

“I know what I want, and I don’t mind being alone.”

It’s really dark in my house. I’ll say it’s to keep it cool, since I don’t have central air, but in all honesty, it’s because I’ve been too broke to afford light bulbs and now that I do have money, I’m simply too lazy to buy some and replaced the old ones.

This is what a successful adult looks like, no?

The literary agent who requested the first fifty pages rejected me, but my original publisher is still thinking about it. What’s that saying, when God closes a door, He opens a window? I’m feeling ambivalent to everything, mostly because I’m sunburned and it hurts so I’m cranky.

I like collecting little, seemingly unimportant details of the people in my life to better craft my characters.

When school was in session, I realized that the worst thing about leaving my house each weekday morning wasn’t having to bid adieu to my comfortable bed and its cozy covers, but that I miss the early sunlight streaming through the windows and lighting the wooden floors. It’s beautiful, and I was sad I could never just sit and admire it. But now I can. I think that’s how life is supposed to work.

I do this thing sometimes where I just sit in my car. I might leave the engine running, or I might shut it off, but either way, I sit in the driver’s seat, scrolling through the social media garbage on my phone or playing Tetris. It’s wasting time, one of the most precious gifts, and I hate it. I don’t know why I do it. Is it exhaustion? Is it moodiness? I abhor how lazy I am. I had an idea for a scene for my third novel, but the details have faded. I remember it had something to do with a modest, upstairs library and someone watching on anxiously as someone else carefully surveyed the titles. I wanted to throw in visiting a favorite author’s grave, but there was definitely more to it, like dancing or something? I need to write things down more often … obviously.

“Wanting it doesn’t make you the monster, taking it does.”

Some days, I just waste the hours until I can go back to sleep.

“You can fail at what you don’t want to do, so you might as well do what you love.”

I’ve been in a miserable sort of funk, so I’m endeavoring to change my life. My friend thinks I need to be comfortable alone before I can be comfortable with someone. She recommended hiking, picnicking, wine on the beach, seeing movies, and getting coffee. I also think I should leave the state. I’ve been dying to go to Key West in Florida. This summer, I’ve decided to dismantle myself from the inside out, rebuilding to be more carefree, more creative, more in love with myself and less dependent on others. Some days, I have to talk myself into getting out of the shower, and even then, I change into pajamas.

But I’m trying to be positive, I swear. I’ve begun keeping a running list of things that make me happy to be alive (in no particular order).

  • fireworks on a summer night
  • driving my Jeep without its roof and doors
  • sunburn (as long as it turns tan)
  • books (even the shitty ones because they’re non-examples for my career)
  • clean sheets
  • hot showers
  • food, glorious food!
  • running and being sweaty after a run because it helps me to love my body
  • good movies
  • laughing
  • the national pride fearlessly displayed by soccer fans

“The effect you have on others is the greatest currency you’ll ever have.”

I recently lost a banana for 24 hours.

“I’m ripe with things to say. The words rot and fall away.”

So, here’s an excerpt from the novel I’m working on. You should hit “play” on the video that follows now, so you can have a soundtrack. Ironically, the song playing is not the one I quote in the paragraph that follows. I wish I knew why I do the things that I do.

“The thing about things is that they can start meaning things nobody actually said, and if he couldn’t make something mean something for me, I had to make up what it meant.”
– Amanda Palmer

Kelly dropped the box filled with odds and ends concerning the kitchen with an exaggerated, dramatic sigh of relief. The box landed on Charlotte’s tiny, cheaply and poorly made kitchen table, a piece of furniture she had salvaged from her grandmother’s home, a piece that had likely been in the home for forty years – a horrible blend of Formica and putrid pastels. For a moment, Charlotte had been hopeful the weight of the box would crush the table and put the ugly thing out of its misery, but she had no such luck. She watched Kelly similarly drop herself into a chair, sweaty and tired from a day spent moving, a day of manual labor. “I don’t want to do this anymore,” she whined.

Charlotte offered a grin of commiseration. “I know, me neither.” She moved a few steps closer, resting against the back of a chair.

“Then let’s call it quits and do something better.”

“Like what? As you can tell, I haven’t got much of anything.”

Kelly thought for a moment. “You got playing cards?”

“I think so,” Charlotte said. She knew damn well that she did, but she was playing it cool for no other reason than it was a habit turned instinct. It was irrational – there was no way Kelly would give a shit about how those cards came to be in Charlotte’s possession, or how seeing those cards made Charlotte’s dumb heart skip a beat even now, even though she was nearly 1,000 miles away.

Kelly’s face of thoughtful concentration broke into a youthful smile of excitement. “Well, shoot – I’ve got beer and some of them crisps. How’s ’bout you and me play us a few rounds of cards?”

“Sure,” Charlotte smiled. Kelly scurried back to her neighboring apartment to scrounge up some beer and some snacks, and Charlotte headed to her bedroom. At the foot of her bed, upon the creaky floor, sat a box labeled, “PERSONAL.” It had been the only box Charlotte had personally moved, had tucked discreetly in her car and carried hurriedly across the threshold of her new apartment, lest anyone should see and ask about the contents, most of which meant absolutely nothing to anyone except Charlotte (hence the label). It wasn’t filled with lingerie or vibrators or dirty pictures or anything like that. The contents only embarrassed Charlotte because of their innocence, because only a prude would cling to a random assortment of objects that reminded her of people who had long since removed themselves from her life, or had been removed for any number of offenses. The items in the box would mean nothing to a passerby and that embarrassed Charlotte, like there was something shameful and almost juvenile about being anything but obvious.

She squatted somewhat uncomfortably to delicately open the box, lovingly unfold the flaps so that she had complete access to some of her memories, so that the majority of the contents were visible. Charlotte only needed to scan the contents for a few seconds before she found the deck of cards, quaintly contained in cardboard, beaten up from a few years of handling. A smile splayed itself unabashedly upon her lips as she reached into the box the same way a heart surgeon would reach into her patient’s chest cavity. With the same kind of epic patience, she removed the playing cards from the box and began walking back to the kitchen. The youthful, exuberant smile quickly became nostalgic and sad.

The playing cards were white with silver, loopy hearts decorating their backs. The hearts were cute, sure, but there was nothing remarkable about their appearance. They were a treasured item for Charlotte only because of the way the cards came to be in her possession. A few years ago, Charlotte had fallen in love with a beautiful, brilliant, and broken man. As a result, she had developed a constant need to be around him, to be close to him, and so, she invited him everywhere.

One night, she invited him back to her hotel room after a work conference. She and her colleagues had all been drinking for quite some time, right up until the lights came up for last call. The beautiful, broken man had joined them at the bar, at Charlotte’s request, of course. Charlotte had always envied the sort of effortless grace that surrounded him, the way he could suddenly appear anywhere at anytime and be welcomed and accepted. When he strolled into the bar without fanfare or pomp and circumstance, without having attended any of the conference because of a prior commitment, Charlotte was breathless with awe. It was like something of a horribly cheesy and romantic movie made for network television; he could have been walking in slow motion beneath a burning spotlight towards a strategically placed wind machine. The fact that he was walking towards Charlotte smiling was wonderful and she was so happy she could burst apart. She never ever wanted her time with him to end, and her colleagues and friends didn’t want to stop drinking, so a select few decided to buy some beer and return to Charlotte’s room. She turned to her beautiful, broken man and invited him. He played it cool – he was always so goddamn cool – and didn’t really answer one way of the other. Even when they were walking back to the hotel, just across the street, he wouldn’t accept or outright reject the invitation. When he climbed into his car, a lump formed in Charlotte’s throat. She would let him go and hide her disappointment, try and play it cool, so her parting words asked that if he did come, to bring playing cards. He waved somewhat dismissively and drove away. The copious amounts of alcohol she had consumed kept Charlotte’s mood from dipping too low and she scampered back to the hotel among friends, arm in arm, with high spirits.

He sent her a text later saying he couldn’t find playing cards and was just going home. Charlotte sighed heavily and thought her best recourse was to just keep drinking.

About twenty minutes later, there was a booming knock at the hotel room door. It sounded particularly authoritative and Charlotte was worried it was the cops. Were they being too loud? Her one friend raced to the bathroom to hide while the other pressed herself further into the bed, as if the mattress could swallow her whole and conceal her. They had left Charlotte to answer the door and so she did, despite feeling suddenly and incredibly nauseous. She opened it and saw no one. No one was there.

She whipped her head to the right and gazed down an empty hallway.

Looking to the left revealed her beautiful, broken man. He was leaning against the hallway wall like some leading man from Hollywood. His arm was bent at the elbow so he had one hand behind his head and rested his weight against the wall through the point of that bent elbow. His right leg was crossed behind the left one and the toes were pointed down at the plush carpet. In his other hand, he twirled a pack of playing cards. He was smiling, quite pleased with himself and the effect it all had on Charlotte. There was certainly something gorgeous about him, something more than his appearance. His demeanor drove her wild – she would never able to pull off such an entrance, but he had.

And it had been for her. What more could a girl possibly ask for?

But nothing had come of it. He was with some woman with a checkered past and too much makeup. Charlotte’s grandma was worsening, and so she had left it all, run away. But she kept the playing cards to remind herself that for one night, she had gotten exactly what she had wanted, that she had been perfectly happy. The cards symbolized possibility – if it happened once, couldn’t it happen again?

 

On connections.

Published January 6, 2014 by mandileighbean

I am a writer, in part, because I believe that life is all about making connections with other human beings. Love is what matters, in all its varying forms and intensities. Writing, for me at least, offers an opportunity to explore those connections and to invent such connections. When lives become entwined with others, it is a beautiful, brilliant, terrifying and almost surreal realization. We matter to others, and others matter to us. How can that relationship ever be ignored or dismissed? I don’t think it can, and I think a lot of my writing expresses that. That theme becomes a constant in my writings, and I apologize if it becomes redundant, but I think the importance of love bears repeating.

Enjoy this week’s writing prompt.

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #9: “An air force pilot is ordered to destroy a public building in a major metropolitan city.”

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Michael Ryan loved to fly. It was the only reason that he joined the air force and became a pilot. It hadn’t been so much about patriotism, or a fervid desire to destroy any enemy, or even the way ladies reacted to a young man in uniform. For Michael, it had always been about the sky. Riding high and knowing there were others looking up and wondering about whom you were and where you were headed was an amazing sort of ego trip. There was something completely self-indulgent and simultaneously totally freeing about being alone in the clouds with just your thoughts and instincts. Michael Ryan truly loved to fly. The opportunity to do so, coupled with the benefits of working for the government, made the career choice a no brainer.

He was flying high when word came over the radio that he was to destroy the Geysler building. Momentarily, Michael had been shocked. The peace and privacy of the cockpit had caused him to temporarily forget the absolute madness and chaos ensuing below, back on the ground. Enemy forces had surprisingly invaded from the shores. Ships had landed and once boots were on the ground, blood ran in the streets of so-called important shore towns. It had been an impressive, coordinated, and alarmingly secretive attack that, from Michael’s point of view, was remarkably successful. Smoke billowed from burning buildings and flames shot toward the sky. Michael was able to observe the certain carnage occurring below with a cool detachment because of his position; he was literally looking down on everyone else. His mind had eventually drifted to other things – whether or not those things were more important was fodder for a different story, for a different day – but the order over the radio brought him back into the present moment and current conditions.

Apparently, the government had ample reason to believe that the Geysler building was a base of operations for enemy sympathizers. Being that the building offered numerous amenities and was a safe haven for the enemy where there should be nothing of the sort, the government decided it needed to be neutralized and removed. Made sense as far as Michael could tell, and he radioed back in the affirmative, that he was on his way and would destroy the Geysler building.

A few minutes later, Michael had positioned himself appropriately and was resting his finger on the trigger, waiting for approval to fire. Through the windshield, he could see into the windows of the building. He was fairly close and was beginning to wonder if he was too close and if he should alter his position – after all, he was still green around the gills and hadn’t destroyed anything outside of practice targets and the like – when something caught his eye. In a window to the bottom left of his vision, was a young woman. She had blonde hair pulled back in an effortless ponytail and a full face. She was wearing a green sweater and on her lap, she held a toddler. The toddler had blonde hair as well, and that shared genetic trait made Michael assume the two were related, even though he was too far away to discern their facial features in any kind of conclusive analysis. As Michael watched, the woman smiled as the toddler stretched out a pudgy hand with splayed fingers and placed it, in a gesture that could only be described as lovingly, upon the woman’s swollen-looking cheek.

It was a touching image, poignant though brief, and it gave Michael pause. Were they the enemy? How could a child and his mother be the enemy of anyone? What sort of tactical maneuvers could those two possibly be planning? What other sort of children and family were in the building? For the first time in his career, Michael was putting real thought behind he was doing.

As he watched and thought, the woman turned to the window and for just a second, Michael thought he knew who she was. The woman bore an uncanny resemblance to someone Michael had known in college; a beautiful and brilliant girl who had lived on the same floor as him junior year. He remembered that she liked to paint and usually had it all over her hands in all sorts of shades. Either because she didn’t know or didn’t care about her filthy, multi-colored hands, she would constantly use them to pull her hair back, only to let it fall freely about her face. She was beautiful in a careless, dangerous way. Michael had called her Bohemia before he learned her real name at a party, because of her predilection to wear printed tunics over yoga pants or leggings. As a matter of fact, he had announced loudly that Bohemia was alive and well once he had noticed her presence at the party. She had smirked – she never really smiled, like smiling was thoughtless and too easy of an expression to offer to the world – and walked over to challenge him and ask him what he thought he knew about bohemia.

They talked for a while about all sorts of things, things Michael had not discussed with anyone since, and ended up in her dorm room, where they had passionate and amazing sex on a gross futon Bohemia had saved from the curb. In the morning, she had made him tea in a cool, antique-looking teapot and after some awkward pleasantries, they parted ways. He saw her occasionally in dining halls and in the quad in the warmer weather, but the most they would exchange was a small nod or tiny wave; nothing more. What if that was Bohemia in that window? What if that was her son? What if, after college, she had fallen in love with a beautiful man and had a traditional wedding and started a family? What if that family was in that building? How could he blow that to smithereens?

Michael did not think he could eliminate Bohemia. As a matter of fact, he had decided that he wanted to find Bohemia and see how she was, to find out what had happened to her. That had been a real connection Michael had made, no matter how short lived, and as he hovered above life exploding and imploding beneath him, he felt depressed. He felt no connection. There had been no tether composed of love or brotherhood or anything so noble to keep him grounded, and so he had found isolation and alienation – not solace – away from the Earth in the air. He was missing so much.

He didn’t listen for the approval. He didn’t wait for an order. He turned around. Michael Ryan was heading home.

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On being in love with every actor.

Published February 19, 2013 by mandileighbean

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“I never let what happened stay in the past.”

I was better than I usually am on Valentine’s Day this year – I remained cheery and optimistic until the next day.  I woke up, logged onto Facebook, and was immediately inundated with nauseatingly adorable gifts and status updates.  Without the students to exaggerate the negativity and thereby make it unattractive and absurd, a bitter taste filled my mouth and I instantly felt blue.  I am sure the Radiohead song playing softly in the background did not help.

On top of that, I did not lose a single pound for the second week in a row.  I only have myself to blame because I have not been counting my calories like I should.  I can try and blame it on my menstrual cycle or stress (teacher evaluation workshops, the backdrop for the play falling over), but the truth is that I have been weak.  I am disappointed in myself.  I am ashamed.

Saturday morning, I watched a good-sized portion of the movie “Mannequin” while eating breakfast.  When I was younger (and only slightly more impressionable than I am now), I was absolutely obsessed with the movie.  Reasons for my obsession seem obvious – such as Andrew McCarthy at his most vulnerable, quirkiest, and most appealing – but upon deeper reflection, it is so much more than that.  There is something dangerously intoxicating about what one creates loving its creator in a singular, unique, and romantic kind of way; like creative types can cure their own loneliness and save themselves.  That aspect of the “fairy tale” is reassuring but at the same time, it is worrisome because does it not suggest that those same quirky, odd, different, creative people cannot find romance organically?  Unless there is some kind of divine intervention or fantastical happenings, are weirdoes never to find love?  Maybe that’s why the first blog I created to promote my writing was titled “Letters to Eliot” and was comprised of nothing more than pathetic and embarrassing love letters to a fictional character of my own creation.  Is that really so different from falling in love with a mannequin?  At least the mannequin was tangible and at least it came to life and at least it loved its creator back and at least they lived happily ever after.

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Regardless of the deeper meta-fictional meanings of “Mannequin,” (or if they even exist) I am once again infatuated with Andrew McCarthy.  I keep playing the scene where we met over and over again – the way I made him turn to me and smile, the way I made him laugh, his inexhaustible charm, and the strength of his embrace when he hooked me around my waist and pulled my close.  It was like it was scripted, which is why I am so disappointed in its lack of an ending.  That same Saturday night, Hallmark Channel aired a new romantic comedy which was unbearably corny, but it starred Andrew McCarthy as a brooding cowboy and naturally, I was enthralled.

I also watched a 45-minute documentary about Elvis Presley called, “Elvis: Summer of ’56.”  It was all about this girl named June Juanico and her relationship with Elvis.  It was surreal to hear her describe how he pulled her aside after a show and kissed the back of her neck, of how he called and wrote, and how she felt comfortable enough with Elvis to adjust his belt.  It is incredible to think anyone could have genuine, intimate moments with the King of Rock and Roll.  June understood that sentiment; she called it quits after Elvis was rumored to be involved with Natalie Wood (and who could blame her?  There’s no competing with Natalie Wood!)  And believe it or not, it seems that even Elvis understood the sentiment because when speaking of the insane amount of screaming, crying girls, he said, “They don’t love me, they love the idea of me.”   I am going to include that in my second novel or die trying.

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Sunday was a great day.  It was Dad’s 52nd birthday, so I am especially glad that it was beautiful and bright, albeit windy and cold.  We all went to Mass together.  Mikey faked (I think) a stomach ache and did not join us for the Olive Garden.  I had many glasses of wine, too much pasta, and I laughed heartily.  Most importantly, Dad enjoyed himself.  On the way home, he tried to freeze Sam and I out by rolling all the windows down and locking them in place because Sam and I had been good-naturedly tormenting Mom (flicking her ears and whatnot).  I tried to distract Dad by giving him a Wet Willy in his right ear so Sam could sneakily slide her arm between the left side of Dad’s seat and the door and unlock the windows.  My efforts failed, but Sam managed to reach the controls for Dad’s seat, so she moved him up and forward, shoving the steering wheel into his chest and the tops of his thighs.  He looked silly and absurd and wildly uncomfortable.  We all laughed until we couldn’t see straight.

Upon arriving home, we descended upon the furniture in the living room.  Dad lounged across the love seat, Mom claimed the chair and I was solo, sitting upon the sofa, until Sam came and lay down, stretching her legs over me.  We were all comfortable, we were all watching “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and we were all together.  It was a beautiful day.

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elizabethtaylor

Paul Newman’s blue eyes and Elizabeth Taylor’s violet eyes were just as glorious as the sky I observed while walking and jogging that night.  The wind made me feel young and restless and wild, like it kicked up all the old, dry negativity within me and swirled it so that when it settled once again, it was something more like optimism and vitality.  The quickened pace of the blood in my veins and of the air in my lungs, with the moon nearly directly over my head so that I had to awkwardly crane my neck to see it, with the tiny, twinkling stars, and with the darkening, layered shades of blue of the evening sky, made me feel incredibly grateful to be alive.  That night, I fell in love with life, and with love, and with possibility.

I want to fall in love this summer.

I have been highly critical of the band Fall Out Boy in the past, but I’ll be damned if they didn’t have some fantastic lines.

“I thought I loved you, but it’s just how you looked in the light.”

“I could write it better than you’ve ever felt it.”

Sixth way to blast my blubber: write a list of reasons why I want to lose weight:

–          I want to be as beautiful on the outside as I am on the inside.

–          I want to be appealing to beautiful men.

–          I want to be noticed by beautiful men when I go out.

–          I want to feel sexy.

–          I want to look sexy.

–          I want to be healthy.

–          I want to have more energy.

–          I want to live longer.

–          I want to finally lose the weight and prove myself wrong.

–          I want to better myself and improve.

–          I want how I envision myself to be reality.

–          I don’t want to feel ugly around my beautiful friends.

–          I want to feel better about myself and feel confident.

–          I want to be the full package; funny, smart and pretty.

–          I want to change my life.

On being a bombshell.

Published January 28, 2013 by mandileighbean

Another two pounds lost; I am ecstatic!  I am celebrating personal achievement because when it comes to “The Biggest Loser” competition at work, I am far from being in the lead.  Rumor has it that someone lost seven pounds, and that another participant completed a four-day fast to boost his or her start.  I am not that competitive; winning would be wonderful, but if I lose every week, I will be happy.  The competition is more of a motivating tool than anything else.  The monetary spoils of victory will have no value when measured against how I look, how I feel, and the confidence I will gain.  Although, I might just be saying all of that to make myself feel better about my inevitable loss – only time will tell.

Whenever I mail anything, which is not all that often in this digital age, I am always reminded of that scene in the movie “Grease,” where Marty is sending a letter to her boyfriend in the Marines, so she sprays the exceedingly feminine stationary with her perfume.  Personally, I believe that to be a wonderfully romantic idea.  Just the other day I found myself in the local post office, sending a copy of my novel to a friend and included a short letter.  I penned a heartfelt note using a ballpoint pen filled with royal blue ink onto fashionable stationary, with a black and white paisley boarder around its edges and matching envelopes.  As I licked the edge of the envelope flap to seal it, I thought about what a sensual, intimate gesture it would be leave just the tiniest trace of lipstick around an edge; the faintest clue of my physical existence.  Naturally, this train of thought led me to the scene from the aforementioned movie, and I wondered if lipstick on the envelope and perfume lightly but noticeably scenting the stationary would work, or if the subtlety of it all would be lost on a man.  Do they notice such things?  Would the thought and planning that went into such a gesture be used to evaluate it?  Does anyone ever truly receive back the effort he or she put into an endeavor?  I think it’s a wildly romantic idea; there’s real optimism in the belief that a complete and total return of an emotion exists.

That makes me think of the fictional character Jay Gatsby from the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  I just ended reading the book with my sophomore students and it is officially my favorite novel of all time.  Its themes and romantic imagery and brutal honesty, with its undeniable cynicism watered down by the an almost untraceable strong hope, reminds me that I am inadequate as a writer (but who isn’t when a novel like The Great Gatsby is the novel against which all others are measured?) and that, like Gatsby, I am terribly lonely and clinging to memories from years ago, formulating schemes based on those ghosts of my pasts and inevitably setting myself up for disappointment and devastation.  That is not to say that I am depressed and delusional – just hopelessly romantic, no matter what the cost.  Some call this naivety, but I believe there is an honorable and dignified kind of stoicism in still believing in the good of people and the power of love, as trite and cheesy and impossible as it may seem.

I did not intend for this entry to be so “deep” (for lack of a better word), but it is a beautifully and bitterly bright Sunday morning and I am on my second cup of coffee.  I feel much like a validated author this morning.  I think the cozy, intellectually stylish sweater I am wearing helps, too.  All I need are thick-framed glasses and all the time in the world, and I could be the perfect picture of writer.  Appearance is half the battle, after all.

Speaking of, the goal of this week’s way to blast my blubber was to “adopt an avatar.”  This goal was remarkably effortless to meet because I have been adopting an avatar every day of my life.  I never see myself for who or what I am, but for who or what I would love to be: a bohemian, artistic intellectual, with the matching wardrobe and accessories.  However, as I become more of a woman and less of a girl, I am tending to gravitate more towards elegance and an understated kind of drama.  I have all of these plans, hopes, and dreams about my future.  I want to be in love with a completely brilliant, brooding, and eccentric man.  I want to be thin with straight, white teeth.  I want to be a wildly successful writer.  All of these wants (that are almost suffocating desires) are within my reach if I am willing to put in the work.  I need to go out more so I can meet new people.  I need to call the dentist and schedule an appointment.  I need to count my calories, keep a food journal, and exercise.  I need to promote my book.  These aforementioned needs are most often rationalized away, pushed aside, and delayed in their realization because currently, I am frustratingly lazy and unfortunately unmotivated.  I watch too much television.  I play too much computer solitaire.  I eat too much.  I sleep too much.  I don’t write enough.  I don’t read enough.

If I want to be a bombshell, I should be a bombshell.  So, my new avatar that I will use to motivate and inspire me on my way to weight loss and creative success, will simply be known as “Bombshell,” and she looks a little something like:

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Whining and seeking pity are wasteful; a waste of time and a waste of words, which are my two most precious resources.  I need to be about it.  There are no excuses left.  I did earn a full-time teaching job.  A company did publish my book.  My life’s pieces are not going to come together of their own accord and produce a pretty, little picture.  I have to engage my own destiny and put the puzzle pieces in their proper positions.

This is not a revelation or a realization; it is only restating common sense.  I want to live up to the compliments I receive.  The psychology teacher said I looked great, that she could tell I was dieting and exercising, and that it was paying off.  I cannot be a fraud; I have to put in the work.

A respected English teacher complimented my writing.  She said my voice was strong and entertaining, and that my attention to detail was strong.  A math teacher asked me to sign her copy and I was too touched to write anything spectacular.  I hope it was what she wanted.

If I want to be a bombshell, then I should be a bombshell.

If you want to be a bombshell, then you should be a bombshell.

On nearly a quarter of a century.

Published September 17, 2012 by mandileighbean

I turn twenty-four in two days, which means – and excuse me for stating the obvious – that I will have been upon this spinning globe for nearly a quarter of a century.  Have I accomplished everything I hoped to at this point?  What do I really have to show for twenty-four years?  Have I anything to be proud of?

I would like to think that the answers to those questions are not black and white.  I have a full-time teaching job, but I am still living with my parents in my childhood bedroom.  I am having a novel published, but I am single and lonely and at times, that makes me miserable.

If nothing else, I believe that the past twenty-four years have taught me many, many lessons, but the most significant lesson of the past has been this: to take the good with the bad, and then deal with it.  I need to be thankful for what I have and take my blessings into consideration.  Everything that I want will not suddenly appear before me when I want it to.  I have to learn how to be patient.  I find it ironic that I am so petrified of death and of wasting my time as I simultaneously wish it away and focus so much on some ambiguous future while ignoring the present.  I cannot have it both ways; I cannot be young and careless and reckless, and be wise, mature and responsible.  What I should wish for when I stoop to extinguish the candles on an ice cream cake is to find a healthy balance.

But then that wouldn’t be me.  What I’m going to wish for is a whirlwind romance and literary success.  I will keep dreaming big, planning an impossible future, but will vow not to forsake the present.

 

Wish me luck.

PROMPT: “The only thing I’ve got left is my pride.”

 

PIECE: I was sitting at the bar on a wooden stool that was mostly uncomfortable and tottered from side to side on legs that were clearly uneven.  I had been speaking with a boy – twenty-five but not yet a man – that I had been fawning over and lusting after for years, literally years.  We had made a trip to a chic, bustling New England city to visit a mutual friend.  She was currently in the restroom, probably puking and then cleaning herself up.  We had been in the bar for hours, since before the sunset, and now it was long after – most likely just an hour or so before last call.  We were all pretty intoxicated and it would only take the suggestion of one to call it a night for us to head home.  A natural silence had descended upon my current conversation, and I had decided to pass the time by picking at the label on my bottle of Coors Light.  The conversation was idle and slurred and not worth continuing; both he and I knew that.  Therefore, I was shocked when I felt his breath hot against my ear and neck as he whispered, “Let’s go somewhere real quick, okay?  It’ll be just you and me.  There’s something … I want to tell you.”  He paused between words because he was lying.  There was nothing to tell me.  He wanted to do things and have things done.  My body tensed and I didn’t dare breathe with him so close, speaking the way he was in the husky tone with the implications.  He thought my silence meant I needed more convincing, so he kept talking.  “I know how you feel about me.  Everyone does, and I’ve never taken advantage of it, have I?  I mean, I’m a good guy and we’re good friends.  It makes sense, doesn’t it?”

I turned to look at him.  I saw the glassy eyes that were trying to focus on me but were failing.  I felt his hand upon the small of my back, moving in small circles in what was an intimate gesture.  I should have thrown myself at him; after all, I’d been waiting for years to be one of his chosen ones.  But I didn’t because it was cheap.  He was drunk.  I was drunk.  There was no meaning, no significance, nothing to build on there.  I wanted to cry and I wanted to be alone.  Sliding off the stool, I looked him in the eye as best I could and said, “All I’ve got left is my pride.”

On the similarities in breaking through and breaking up.

Published July 25, 2012 by mandileighbean

I didn’t sleep last night.  In fact, my wearied head didn’t crash against the pillows until around 4:00AM.  Why such late hours?  What could have possibly been so enthralling, so engaging that it kept me up until dawn was but a few hours away?

I was writing.  I was writing the beginnings of a second novel, not just another prompt.  I haven’t done anything like that, or felt so excited by an idea, since I started writing Her Beautiful Monster, and that was years ago.

Whatever I decided to do professionally and no matter where I move – no matter where September finds me – I am ecstatic that I broke my dry spell and that I am truly back to doing what I love.

I hope what I wrote above doesn’t put too much pressure on tonight’s prompt.  Mainly, tonight’s piece was a hell of a lot of fun.  Enjoy!

PROMPT: A high-priced prostitute suspects that one of her best customers is falling in love with her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

PIECE: Candi had only just escaped to the ladies’ restroom in the upscale restaurant that Carl had brought her to for dinner.  The napkins were made of soft linen, as were the tablecloths, and it made her nervous as hell to wipe her mouth because they were clearly so expensive and the trashiest thing in the world – the absolute trashiest thing – would be for Candi to leave a smeared trail of bright red lipstick on the napkin.  That’s what Candi was though – she was trash.  She was a prostitute and no matter how many times she insisted that “high-end” come before the profession, it didn’t change anything.  Night after night, she would tart herself up and exchange pleasantries – social niceties, can you believe it? – only to end up on her back with a stranger inside her.  What kind of life was that?  What was she doing, really?  Candi suddenly discovered she was having difficulty breathing in a smooth, even pattern.  If there was one thing Candi prided herself on, it was her ability to stay strong – she didn’t rattle.  She rushed to the nearest sink, her high heels clicking against the beautifully tiled floor, and turned the faucet on.  She used trembling hands to cup water and throw it on her face, using a sparing amount so that the makeup that had been so expertly applied would not run or be washed away.  After all, a naked prostitute was more vulnerable than sexy.  Candi needed all her engines firing and she needed to have all of her tools in her arsenal ready to go.  That was the thing about Carl; he was constantly catching her off guard.  While the change of pace excited her in a way she thought she’d long be numb to, it was also dangerous.  In her line of work, there could be no surprises.

What could she do though?  How was she to know that Carl was going to take her out once she had been dropped at the hotel?  She shouldn’t have gone, but Candi wasn’t as strong as she liked to believe when Carl flashed his pearly whites and asked something of her.  He had charmed her, sure, but things were going farther than that.  He had brought her here for dinner when they could have easily ordered room service and remained hidden and discreet.  Carl kept clearing his throat like he was nervous, and he kept fiddling with the silverware folded in the fancy napkins.  Why was he nervous?  Candi had a sinking suspicion that he was going to ask something impossible.  She feared that Carl was in love with her, and had hatched some insane scheme that involved him saving her, carrying her away from her life of sin and regret in strong, toned arms before a stunned crowd of seedy onlookers who applauded the effort, but slowly – very slowly.  She splashed more water against her face.

Candi was an idiot; she had nothing to worry about.  She was certainly not Julia Roberts and Carl was absolutely no Richard Gere (but when she told the story later on to friends, she’d make the analogy innocently and swear it was accurate).  This was not a movie and she was not about to be whisked away to anywhere besides a high-priced hotel room.  Patting her face dry with a cloth towel, she smoothed her dress (in an attempt to make it look longer and elegant, rather than short and scandalous) and returned to the table.

Carl was not in love with her, no way, no how.

Right?

On literary snobbery and sex.

Published July 20, 2012 by mandileighbean

Call me a literary snob.

Call me uptight.

Call me prude.

Call me what you will, but upon reading the following linked news article, I became indignant and nearly filled with rage; http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/07/18/bronte-bondage-classic-literature-gets-fifty-shades-of-grey-treatment/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+time%2Fentertainment+%28TIME%3A+Entertainment%29&utm_content=Google+Reader.

I understand that the current trend in Hollywood dictates that what will be successful will not be new; instead, it will be a reincarnation of what was successful in the past, and more often than not, it will be a crude and diluted version.  What happened to artistic integrity?  It is more than a little disheartening to see millions being made as literary classics – stories already told and stories against which all others are measured – are warped and twisted to fit the fleeting interests of the American public.

I admit I may be in a little hypocritical in my view because I said nothing when Pride and Prejudice because Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  I suppose I may have been more forgiving then because that book did not take itself seriously; it did not claim to add to the character development or themes.  It truly added a supernatural element and left it at that.  Now, classic novels are being rewritten to include scenes they claim are “missing;” who can possibly make that claim but the author?  There is nothing “missing” from the relationships between Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester, between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, and between Heathcliff and Catherine.  These novels became classics because of the literary elements which are now deemed unsatisfactory and not entertaining.  They need sex, because everything in society has to be sexy to have value.  That is the message the public is sent through the media, and it has now inevitably trickled into literature.  I would not mind half as much if original stories were more sexualized – I would discount it as a sign of changing times and just more evidence of society’s ever-changing interests.  However, that is not what is happening.

I do not think that anyone who reads Fifty Shades of Grey is a sex-starved, literary simpleton.  Far from it; I completely understand that tastes differ.  Hell, I’m thinking about reading the Fifty Shades trilogy myself.  I think it important to note, however, that two women who have read both the first and the second books in the series complained there was too much sexual interaction between the characters, and not enough character development.  I wonder, then, how introducing sex scenes into literary classics could possibly enhance character development.

Indeed, a large aspect of the sex appeal of literary characters like Mr. Rochester, Mr. Darcy and Heathcliff is that they are mysterious, secretive, allusive, wounded and brooding.  To introduce a physical and intense sex scene robs the characters of that mystery and debases them.  The inclusion of such racy relationships is anachronistic more than anything else; the scenes are not “missing,” as is arrogantly stated in the article.  How presumptuous it is.

It especially bothers me that nothing appears to be sacred anymore.  In this respect, I understand I am not as “progressive” as others and may be deemed old-fashioned, but what happened to keep secret desires, passions and fantasies just that – a secret?  Part of the charm and brilliance of reading is that the reader must use his or her imagination.  Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights are incredibly romantic and passionate; the material is all there and it is up to the reader to find it, embrace it and further it as he or she wishes.  It is more effective, in this writer’s humble opinion, to allow the reader to infer.  When Mr. Rochester simply stares at Jane with an impassive countenance, it is enough to imagine what he is thinking.  The unspoken sexual tension that is subtly laced throughout is not only a masterful skill of the craft of writing, but one of the most enjoyable aspects of the stories.

Fifty Shades of Grey is an erotic novel; something some would argue is akin to porn.  Whether or not porn is an art form is not the argument I am trying to present.  I am only upset that artistic integrity is being traded in for commercial success.  It is a shame.  Even Fifty Shades of Grey was inspired by another idea; it started out as fanfiction of the Twilight series.  At least E.L. James did not try rewriting the series; she created a world and characters of her own.

PROMPT: A man ducks into a dress shop to escape a sudden downpour and finds himself in the middle of a heated debate between the employees.

PIECE: Tom hadn’t expected the sudden and furious onslaught of rain, and neither had anyone else, judging by the mass exodus of people from the sidewalks and pavements into nearby stores and under any awning.  It was the summer, and sweeping rains were not uncommon, but remained an annoyance.  Holding his toned arms crossed above his carefully gelled-hair atop his intelligent head, Tom ducked into a women’s dress shop on the right side of the street.  The bell dinged from above as he entered, but no one else seemed to acknowledge his arrival.  Matter of fact, the shop seemed relatively deserted.  It was dimly lit, which Tom figured was supposed to give the boutique-ish store some ambience, but it only made him squint (like doing so would help him to see better) and give him a headache.

There was some soft jazz-sounding music emitting softly from the speakers overhead, but the speakers were in need of repair and the sound crackled and went silent every now and again.  Tom gave a glance out the windows, saw the rain pounding against everything in its path and sighed heavily, assuming he’d be in the store for a while.  He began making his way toward the sales counter.  Tom really wasn’t sure why he chose that path, and chalked it up to being more instinct than anything else.  Then again, maybe he was just bored and looking for some human interaction.  Either way, what else was he supposed to do?

Tom was greeted at the counter by screaming, shrill and distinctly feminine voices.  Two women, both young and red in the face, were shouting at each other.  Their arms waved to and fro in wild gesticulations, clearly indicating to Tom that both women were clearly passionate about the subject which was the topic of conversation, or rather, the argument.  Smiling to himself, proud of his chauvinistic cleverness, Tom assumed it would be about the different membership advantages of Team Edward versus Team Jacob.  He moved forward, ready with a clever and discreetly insulting remark about such a discussion, certain that while catching the ladies off guard, it would impress them with his intelligence and thereby make him immediately irresistible.  Tom opened his mouth to proclaim his witty retort, but was suddenly silenced when he actually stopped and listened to what was being said.

“But there are two different kinds of government spending, Melinda,” the young woman on the right explained.  “And both kinds need to be cut, both direct spending and discretionary spending, to get our economy back on its feet!”

Melinda rolled her eyes.  She said, “But, Crystal, what you really want to do is cut direct spending and completely reform needed and beneficial programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  People depend on those programs.”

Crystal looked tired.  “Reform is not the same as negating or cutting.  Surely you realize that!”

Tom cleared his throat and both women turned their heads toward him quickly.  Their impassioned expressions smoothed and they thoughtlessly resumed the role of clerk, of liaison to the masses.  To Tom, they looked prettier this way; eager to serve, aiming to please and ignorant of economics and its accompanying buzzwords.

“You ladies read Twilight?” he offered lamely.

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