Thursday, November 09, 2006

A New Start For A Healthy Heart


Besides my brief stint as a reporter for the prestigious Mineral Wells Index (circulation 2000), I worked for a few months for a feminist circular called The Gaze. I'd published a poem in the first issue, an ode to good love gone bad, but it was so abstract and strange that one would be hard pressed to cull that meaning from the words on the page. The Gaze had a firm editorial policy -- Do not barrage us with stories and articles about your struggle with body image issues. We are not interested in what you're not eating this week! And please, no I broke up with a real dick stories. So I had to be sneaky. Given my poor writing skills at the time, such subterfuge wasn't difficult. Almost nobody knew what I meant by anything which wasn't the worst thing -- sometimes people assumed that they had missed the "deeper" meaning and weren't smart enough to get it. Yeah, that's it! The fact that I couldn't form a coherent thought on the page -- well, no piece of published writing is ever perfect so . . . The poem, "Dreams of Russia and You" had nothing to do with Russia or communism, but the editor thought it was a musing on the state of entrapment of women in a patriarchal society by use of metaphor. I nodded. The fact that I had been dumped by an artist named Jeff after ignoring his philandering for many months and that in fact was the subtext, well, as my mother used to say, You don't have to tell everything.

Given this first success, the editor assigned me an investigative piece on the local crisis pregnancy center, sponsored by a local nondenominational church. Women could train as volunteer counsellors for this center so I called and signed up for an all day Saturday session where I would learn everything I needed to know to help those in need. I dressed as conservatively as I knew how -- flat shoes, my one hideous Laura Ashley-like mumuu, and a string of fake pearls, ala Tricia Nixon on a budget. The center, housed in a small office-like building, had several homey touches -- kleenex boxes with crocheted outfits, pictures of nature lining the walls, several framed Norman Rockwell prints (I thought the last touch was pure overkill, but there you have it). The process was simple -- a girl (over half the clients were under eighteen) or woman came into the clinic lured by the free pregnancy test. We had them fill out a questionaire about their sex lives, health, and general information, take the test (an EPT test that they could have purchased at Wal-Mart for less than ten dollars) and tell them that the results would be back in an hour. (This, of course, was a lie -- we knew whether they were pregnant in five minutes). If they were pregnant, we were to show them a film on the development of the fetus. If not, we were to show them "A New Start for a Healthy Heart," a film on regaining your virginity. In my mind, I called it "Whore No More." After delivering the news after the film, we were to tell them about all the help they could get from the center -- used baby clothes and toys, WIC coupons, and access to information about putting your baby up for adoption. If the woman so much as mentioned she was considering an abortion, we were instructed to show her The Silent Scream, a famous anti-abortion film. By the end of the day, my feet hurt from wearing flat shoes for so long and from the fake smile I kept plastered on my face, but I was happy because I knew that this would be far better than the first thing I had published in The Gaze. But my article never ran because The Gaze lost its funding. Even so, the day wasn't a total waste -- I had learned how to regain my virginity and to pass for someone I was not. No one suspected I wasn't one of them. I'm sure it wasn't what the crisis pregnancy center had in mind when they said they printed on their brochures that they were committed to help "all personal development," but as I already knew, there were huge gaps between what a person wrote and what she meant.


Michelle's Spell of the Day

"I'm sitting here in a pile of ashes, waiting for the phoenix to take shape and rise." Jill McCorkle, Crash Diet

Cocktail Hour

Drinking movie suggestion: U-Turn

Benedictions and Maledictions

Love Note

I would kill myself for you
if I weren't already dead.
Timing, I think, is everything.

12 comments:

Now Voyager said...

Regaining one's virginity makes faking one's own death look easy. Timing IS everthing. You have such entertaining adventures, Michelle. Thanks.

Laura said...

Nice post. Too bad The Gaze lost its funding before you had a chance to publish your article on your experience at the clinic.

Professor Irwin Corey said...

To the gap between the words as they appear in text and the writer's intention we must add the leap(s) of the audience's interpretation(s).

Special said...

I love reading between the lines in what you write, Michelle. As someone once said, it's not so much the words that are important as it is the space between them.

Bird on a Wire said...

Hard to imagine you with "poor writing skills." Another great post and picture, Michelle.

paul said...

MightyIsisFoxyCajunQ
That centerstory gives me the willies. Warm today in the BigD
Rock on ElectricPoet
ReportervettoEdBradly
R2 C2!

Anonymous said...

Michelle, not wise person who was a professional writer! Penalty that its work in the magazine did not give certain, but in contraposition gained didactic experience and of life! It liked it resulted them elections? Good Drink! Beijus

JR's Thumbprints said...

This post reminds me of my stint teaching Health to delinquent girls from the Wayne County Youth Home. Most of my students were already "showing." I remember a particular page in the Health text book--it had a neat little quote that I'd always have someone read aloud: "Quit your urgin', be a virgin." Of course, it was a little too late.

John Ricci said...

Dear Michelle, lovely posts and views, as always. I am sure you were a most smashing reporter with your many talents as a listener and writer and vision of loveliness. I especially enjoy the last view of you as a modern day Hamlet girl. I am sorry to have been off for a while as I was helping the Democrats drive voters to the polls and am somewhat tired. I am happy with the results, though and it is good to return here. To your always charming blog and the Democratic sweep of Congress also, Bravo!

Anonymous said...

Sweet Michelle, thanks for the kind words and hello. Just know that the more I read, the more magnetic you truly become. Jill

Anonymous said...

What a great poem, M! Short & Sweet!

Sheila said...

that sucks about your magazine losing its funding. Well you know what they say... one door closes....