Sunday, 19 April 2015

How To Grow Up by Michelle Tea (introduction)

I like stories about messed-up people and their messed-up lives. It makes me more at peace with my own. And I found this gem at the City Lights bookshop in San Francisco, which makes it doubly special.

Perhaps some of you have glided into adulthood with all the grace of a swan, skimming lightly into an adult living situation, adult relationships, adult jobs and income, and, most important, an adult sense of confidence, of a solid place in the world, of stability.

Who are you people? I'm not sure you actually exist.

If you are not yet an adult and fear you may never be one; if you suspect you in fact may be an adult, but your grasp on both the concept and the lifestyle is shaky enough to wake you up at night; if you spend too much time longing for items you can't quite afford and break into a cold sweat whenever you do part with some of your hard-earned cash; if your sliding-scale therapist has diagnosed you with post-traumatic stress disorder from the dysfunctional formative years you're clambering out of; if you are slowly learning how to clean your house; if you are slowwwwwwwwwly learning how not to date narcissists; if you've spent too much time with too much booze in your belly; if you never went to college; if you have embarrassing spiritual inclinations that lead you to whisper affirmations under your breath and hiss occasional desperate prayers to unknown unicorn goddesses; if you have a stack of unread self-help books under your bed; if some of your most ridiculous, irresponsible choices have turned out to be some of the best decisions you've ever made; if your path into so-called adulthood has been more meandering and counterintuitive than fast-tracked, then this is a book for all of you, my darlings. And as for those graceful individuals who swanned themselves effortlessly into adulthood, you, too, might find something that interests you, even if it's just a juicy bit of voyeurism.

I have spent the past decades alternately fighting off adulthood with the gusto of a pack of Lost Boys forever partying down in Neverland, and timidly, awkwardly, earnestly stumbling toward the life of a grown-ass woman: healthy, responsible, self-aware, stable. At forty-three years old, I think I've finally arrived, but my path has been via many dark alleys and bumpy back roads. Along the way, I've managed to scrawl a slew of books - memoirs about growing up a persecuted Goth teen in a crappy town, or a love-crazed party person getting my heart smashed up again and again; about the creepy secrets my family was harbouring; about my time working in the sex industry. That I got these books published was a shocker - I hadn't gone to college or studied writing or anything. That people read them, and liked them, felt like a total miracle. Because of these books I've been able to cobble together something of an adult life writing and producing literary events, blogging and running a nonprofit of my own creation.

It is from this somewhat trembling, hard-won perch of adulthood that I type to you now. I type to you form a marginally clean home - no longer do roaches scamper under cover of darkness! No longer do stubbed-out cigarette butts stud my floors! No longer will hungover twenty-something roommates vomit in my toilet! I type to you as one who has, amazingly, learned to fix my "broken picker" - you know, the terrible radar that sends a person fluttering in the direction of the cad most likely to trample your heart. After a lifetime of flat-broke-ness that includes many dips into full-on poverty, there is enough cash in my bank account to occasionally blow on pricey perfumes and other useless but beautiful items. And, after nearly killing my life with drugs and alcohol, I have more than a decade sober, and all the oddball spiritual wisdom that comes with it. After a lifetime spent writing memoirs that detail the struggles that I and countless other girls experience when they're born broke, or weird, into tricky families and unsafe towns, it seemed like time to write a book about ow that struggle can actually, with luck and grit, lead you straight into a life you didn't know you wanted and never thought you'd have.

Getting from there to here is a story that will take us to Paris Fashion Week and the punishing halls of blue-collar all-girl Catholic high schools; to the bingo games of Las Vegas casinos and a New England bus station where an Internet-sourced date peddled her pills; from a yacht on the French Riviera to a rundown San Francisco apartment with a persimmon tree in the backyard; from Buddhist meditation halls to the magnificent Pacific Ocean. Like life, these tales rise up out of nowhere and leave you shaking your head and changed for the experience. Through repeat failures and moments of bruised revelation. I have mastered the art of doing things differently and getting different results. If you can't quite relate, I do hope you enjoy the wild ride. And if you do relate, I hope that what I've lived and what I've learned serve to make your own messy journey to adulthood a little less rocky, a little less lonely. At the end of it all, we're all just kids playing dress-up in our lives, some a little more convincingly than others.

No comments:

Post a Comment