I may or may not have been taking pictures of my money shot recently to share with my husband. And I may or may not have been later uploading innocuous photos of other things at Starbucks and accidentally displayed said photos on my large laptop screen with a stranger sitting nearby.
Dear Family and Conservative Friends, I urge you not to read the following post. Dear Brother, trust me. This is just like Chapter Four. You will forever say “and if I only had one regret…” and it will end with something about wishing you had never finished reading this post.
My brother actually told me, after reading Chapter Four of my memoir (being told first not to read it) that he assumed I was telling him not to read it for effect…that in fact I wanted him to read Chapter Four but was building suspense.
He suggested that, in the future, should a situation like that arise, I make it clear, crystal clear, ahead of time, that I am not employing hyperbole but that, in fact, I really don’t want him to read what I’m telling him not to read. He was traumatized by reading Chapter Four of my manuscript and could not continue to chapter five or the remainder of the book.
(A couple friends and my nephew have now said that the title of the memoir, should it ever be published, should be simply Don’t Read Chapter Four and proceed to skip four (of course five would be the new four, but it is kind of catchy, no?). And no, you can’t steal that title because after they told me that, I’ve started the copyright process on the title, so I will in fact, sue your ass if you try.)
And that is why I always heed my brother’s advice. Because if I were to just simply tell you not to read the following, without first explaining just how much it really is not for the sexually conservative or for those who don’t want to read about my vagina, I would feel negligent.
That’s my due diligence. Really. I urge you not to continue reading…
For the rest of you, enjoy the lewd and lascivious entertainment.
Now, before I finish this story, I’m going to break a cardinal rule and qualify my writing…
Today’s post is not non-fiction. It is also not not non-fiction. In other words, it is a true-ish-ism. In still other words, it is the hyperbole of hindsight in a stand-up comedy routine.
As I was preparing this post and deciding whether to create fiction or personal essay to include your words and phrases for Manipulate Marla Monday (I know, today’s Tuesday – see yesterday’s post for explanation of that) I realized that I am creating my first cross-genre post.
There has been a lot of ugly name-calling (Liar! Liar! Pants on fire!) in the non-fiction community about just what constitutes “truth” and how far a writer can take something marketed as non-fiction if certain facts have been jimmied to make the book more intriguing or give it more emotional drama. (This has been an ongoing argument but recently spurred by John D’Agata, who I personally love to read.)
As a reader, I don’t care. I just want to be entertained. So except when something is listed as journalism, autobiography or biography, I read other works of nonfiction (essay and memoir) with the expectation that people write in what is the frequently flawed, often myoscopic and justifiable hyperbole of memory.
That’s how memory works and as a society of oral storytellers, the way we tell and re-tell our lives is in a lively engagement of passion that includes comedy and drama. The mundane works in there too, but let’s face it, we write like our personalities. Boring people tell boring stories that have no plotline and we tend not to want to hang around listening to what they’re talking about. Interesting people have developed a heightened sense of what moves the listener to relate, to laugh, cry or otherwise remember the tale and pass it on.
So as a reader, as a listener who enjoys interesting conversation, I don’t care that the storyteller speaks in hyperbole or has selective memory. I’m smart enough to know that people remember the things pertinent to himself and that every story has an objective, even truthful ones. Sometimes it’s a moral. Sometimes it’s instruction.
Sometimes it’s the conveyance of emotional truth that I need to read, and if you get to that truth by realigning facts, I’ll take it.
But as a writer, I can’t do it. If I’m going to give you true-ish-isms, I’m going to make sure you understand the “ish” and the “ism.”
My preference for presenting non-fiction in hyperbole is with the hype of hypothetical.
For me, hypothetical allows skeptics to read somewhat fictionalized scenarios in creative non-fiction without detracting from the narrative of truth surrounding it, because it’s all in “what if.” Hypothetical allows believers to read those same scenarios as truth; they perceive hypothetical statements as containing at least some or all of the truth, with the writer just using “what if” to distance himself from a painful or embarrassingly revealing bit of honesty.
The impact for me is still the same because as Americans, I think we have perfected what-iffing ourselves to death and could relate to the drama and tension of “what if.”
As a reader, I don’t give a shit if someone is making his non-fiction more engaging and I think if you’re not smart enough to take memoir or essay with the understanding that the writer is often deluded both in memory and perspective, you should stick to biography and reportage.
As I writer, I would not be comfortable giving you exaggeration, gaps or outright false information without a hypothetical, so that we can both come to the page with the same understanding: this may or may not have happened.
So what about that money shot, then?
Dear Reader, please treat the following story as a hypothetical situation which may or may not have occurred yesterday in the Starbucks in Indiana, Pennsylvania on Wayne Avenue. (See how I cast a further seed of doubt and/or affirmation by giving you those details?)
So…I may or may not have taken photos of my money shot recently. It’s possible that I don’t even know for sure what a money shot is, but have recently discovered handheld mirrors and like to refer to this newfound visual, which may or may not look like a twatwaffle, as the “money shot.”
You might be surprised to learn that I never used handheld mirrors before. We didn’t have any growing up, and while I did a little bit of examination by standing on the bathroom sink and contortioning myself, there was little other inspection for the next thirty years. So as I become more liberated in the way I examine my life (see how I used “examine” there? It could mean examine or examine. You don’t know for sure, but you get to use your smarts to infer) I am becoming more bold in my discoveries and in the way I interact with my husband, who views this newfound “liberation” with excitement, awe, fascination and his usual fear that I might suddenly talk about it to the world.
Yeah, I don’t know how and what this new body fascination and confidence is about, but it does feel enlightening. Carl Sandburg once said “There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud.” I’m not sure I know which one is winning, because like truth in non-fiction, my new body confidence may be viewed by one reader as literary honesty and by another as cheap shock effect.
So there I was in Starbucks, having just googled “Oliver Boliver Butt” as research for the Manipulate Marla Monday post, when I decided I wouldn’t have time to write that post until later and decided instead to upload some crazy werewolf photos from the day before. Forgetting that my phone included those “money shot” photos, I connected the cord and there appeared on my screen a large surprise.
The photo, taken in a state of heightened tactile consideration, might have looked like beautifully flaming red and orange leaves…stuck to the brick sidewalk. Or not. I don’t know who’s hoo-ha looks like that. I once heard a disgusting analogy that a woman’s nether regions look like a beautiful rose or a slobbering bulldog, depending on what has or has not occurred in those nether regions.
Those descriptions may or may not bounce around the misogynistic mouths of the males of my father’s family, heard by me as a young and impressionable girl from time to time. Certainly I’ve never heard them describe any orange or red leaves or flowers except those paired with bulldogs.
And certainly my hoo-ha, were it displayed on the computer that day, would not look like Bree Olson’s hoo-ha, which may or may not have also been on my computer that day, due to my forgetting to remove the DVD which then began on autoplay…in Starbucks…on Wayne Avenue…in Indiana, PA.
No, the photo might not have looked like leaves or flowers or Bree Olson’s bleached privates. It might have looked exactly like a photo of a vagina plastered large and in charge on a laptop screen in the middle of Starbucks.
As soon as the photo appeared I looked around the room to find that a middle-aged man was sitting at a nearby table, at an angle from which he could see the screen-sized vagina, had he been looking. I couldn’t tell whether or not he saw, and turned the laptop immediately, angling myself so that I could hurriedly extract the other photos to my blog folder, and disconnect the phone from my laptop.
(And what would we say about the above paragraph that suddenly removes the “might have” and appears as straightforward action? Does the initial disclaimer of hypothetical still cover it, or have I now gone into the actual truth of the matter? Does it matter?)
After removing my vagina from the screen of my laptop, I then went about my business, finishing the blog. Until I felt someone staring at me. I looked up in time to see that same man I tried to hide my screen from now leaving Starbucks, his gaze aimed hard at me like a double-barreled shotgun.
Then, a slow curling grin spread across his face and I could have died. I could have just died.
See how that hyperbole works there? You don’t really think I was going to die, but that’s of course not non-fiction, now is it? I wasn’t really going to die from his leer, and I certainly wasn’t going to die from accidentally displaying a photo of my money-shot in the middle of Starbucks. But you and me, we have an agreement. I trust you to be smart enough to read my hyperbole for what it is, and to understand my personality well enough to recognize true-ish-isms and to take hypotheticals as, well, hypotheticals.
So which am I? The eagle or the hippopotamus? I mean, all weight jokes aside of course, maybe in exploring myself I am the eagle and in sharing that information I become the hippopotamus?
Or maybe the exploration is the wallowing hippo and the sharing is the soaring eagle?
Or maybe neither applies and I should just give your brain a rest?
In any case, that’s the end today’s Manipulate Marla Monday (a day late). I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself. Go ahead, take a money shot of yourself and see how liberated you feel. I would, however, recommend you delete it before the next time you’re uploading photos at Starbucks.
Special thanks to the words and phrases that prompted today’s post, contributed by Mona Juart, Jeff Sink, Kriscinda Meadows, Michelle McCully, Mindy Knouse Brems and Melanie Wetzel
For those of you unfamiliar, Manipulate MarLa Monday is a regular feature in which I ask readers to give me works and phrases to prompt me to write a post incorporating them. All prompts today were highlighted in bold red.