02 May 2005

Welcome to vanillagrrl's world

Greetings, all!

I am excited to have a place to post all these musings about life and art, if you can even separate the two. I'll definitely be talking about music, writing, films, travel, books, sexuality, parenting, and whatever's in my view at the moment.

I am a freelance writer at work on many different projects. One is an interview of the band Gomez from December 2003 that I want to post somewhere in its detailed fun.

Today I'm working on something more serious, however. I am setting up an interview with Angela Shelton, a documentary filmmaker I met at the first annual Boulder International Film Festival this February. She was a writer working in L.A. who decided to make a documentary film in which she would try to contact all the Angela Sheltons in the U.S., to find out about "the state of women in America today." But her film, "Searching for Angela Shelton," ended up being not just a survey of how women are doing but also a very personal expose of sexual abuse in her own life and the lives of many of the women she met in her cross-country journey. In one astounding coincidence, she interviews an Angela Shelton who lives in the same town as her abusive father; this Angela is a tracker of sexual predators. The filmmaker herself pulls no punches: She is willing to say just about anything to anyone. Part of the way through her journey she realizes she needs to confront her father ("All roads lead to you, Dad," she says to him). When she finally does this late in the film it is painful to watch: He completely denies her memories of his sexual abuse, which her stepbrother and stepsister both remember vividly. She is furious, and frustrated. But by the end of the film Angela is ready to end the silence about abuse and she is doing so with every screening of her film and every public appearance she makes.

When Angela called me back a few days later from the road about my message requesting an interview, I was in the middle of cooking some elaborate dinner and it took a minute to come up to speed in our conversation. I don't even remember exactly what it was I said that prompted her to respond, "Are you silly?" I smile every time I think of her saying that.

Of course, this is bringing up my own issues. My father was violent and sexually abusive toward both my mother and stepmother. It's taken me years of reflection, talk, and some therapy to recognize that while he may not have invaded my life in the same way, what he did was emotionally abusive toward us all. He really has shown such consistent disdain and mistrust for women over the years, and by all accounts he still does. I have experienced the same kind of utter frustration when I've tried to talk with him about this. Once I had hoped he would apologize, but every time I have tried to talk with him, he just says he doesn't remember. His reasoning must be: Why apologize for something you don't remember? I have spent the last month gearing up (in my head I say I'm "girding my loins") to tell him I don't want to see him when he comes to town. Now that I have a daughter, his influence is the last thing I want in her life, or my own. But writing a story about Angela Shelton seems like a tremendously positive way to break the silence about abuse -- and help other women learn to do the same.

Through all of this music has always provided me with great outlets for my emotions: "It brings me relief," as Neil Finn of Crowded House says in the song "Nails in my Feet." I just saw the lovely film I Capture the Castle, and the stepmother was a bit of an exhibitionist. I chuckled when she insisted, "It brings me release!" about taking her clothes off out-of-doors.

I have added I Capture the Castle to a list of art about writing that moves me: The father is a novelist with a 12-year case of writer's block whose daughter goes to extreme measures to help him write again. I found this plot thread more moving than the romantic elements, by far. There's another Neil Finn line that sparks my eyes with tears every time I hear it, from his solo album One All (One Nil outside the U.S.): "I missed the page that you thought about," which always makes me think of my supportive husband who is willing to wait for me to write my masterpieces. I hear lines like that and I know I want to have no regrets about my writing, especially because writing is definitely taking me deeper into myself than anything else has ever done. While music puts me in touch with my inner nature (believe me, there will be more on this thread later!), it is writing that helps me clarify who I am. There's a wonderful Francis Bacon quote, a portion of which I first saw inscribed on a beautiful, handcarved wooden cabinet at Bookshop Santa Cruz: "Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man."

For some of the reasons I have described, writing and publishing is not proving easy for me. I thought when I was writing short stories in college that I would be a novelist by now, but it's been difficult to shed the conditioning that kept me watching the signs to make sure I was completely safe before venturing out and saying my piece. (In therapeutic parlance, is this hypervigilance combined with post-traumatic stress disorder?) I've felt rather hobbled by this for years, but am getting more help at last.

As for that inner nature that music has helped me tap into, current inspirations are the Scissor Sisters and a visit to a Bangkok nightclub, The Bed Supperclub on gay night. I saw a woman who looked like Queen Latifah dancing on the elevated lighted platform and thought, that's who I want to be when I grow up. I have the same feeling when I see the Scissor Sisters perform. In the words of their female band member, Ana Matronic, "What we do is about people displaying their fantasies on the outside, trying to break out of the everyday, and look like their dreams." I am all over that!

So I keep on writing, listening to music, loving my family, eating well, trolling the local thrift stores for fabulous outfits, and trying to keep in mind that every day gives me new opportunities to realize my dreams and reinvent myself.

Rock on,

No comments: