Thursday, March 11, 2010

100% Mainstream

by Ashley Lister

I’m sorry guys but this week’s topic completely befuddles me. I don’t do alternative: I try to be mainstream all the way.

I suppose I could use this space to talk about my research into alternative lifestyles (published in my SWINGERS titles: SWINGERS, true confessions from today’s swinging scene and SWINGERS: Female Confidential) but I’m sure I’ve already waxed sufficiently lyrical about those books. I’d rather take the opportunity to venture down the road less travelled and talk about the crushing difficulties of maintaining a ‘mainstream lifestyle’ in a world that embraces the alternative.

First: my name is Ashley and I’m a guy. This is not typical of the mainstream lifestyle. Ashley is a name that is not exclusively associated with either gender. In the US Ashley is more commonly associated with females but in the UK the balance is approximately 50/50. Consequently, a lot of people know me as a guy with a girl’s name. This makes it hard for me to be 100% mainstream.

Then there are the books I write.

I enjoy writing erotica. It’s a genre (which means I’m moving away from mainstream already) and it’s also a genre that outsiders are keen to denigrate (which means I’m part of a persecuted minority). However, my response to these opinions (if you don’t like what I write, then don’t read it) is 100% mainstream truculence.

I teach creative writing and I try to do this in the most orthodox and mainstream fashion possible but, again, it’s not always easy. For one thing, after studying various pedagogical approaches to the teaching of creative writing, I find I’m not sufficiently in touch with my inner writer to imbue my teachings with the necessary level of inaccessible mysticism.

In my classes, the first rule of creative writing is: pick up your pen, and put the nib against the paper. Learners are then instructed to inscribe a letter, add enough other letters so they’ve produced a word, and then add enough other words so there is a sentence.

It’s at this point where I say, “Congratulations: you’ve just begun your association with creative writing. I hope it’s a long, lucrative and rewarding one.”

In family life I strive to be 100% mainstream all of the time. Invariably I fail. My wife and I share household responsibilities and duties as equals. There is no sexist imposition or distribution of menial tasks. Tracy cooks: I clean. The arrangement works well because she’s a better cook than me and I’m more orderly when it comes to dealing with the washing machines.

Which leaves me wondering if I’m as mainstream as I want to be: or if mainstream is one of those unachievable aspirations like normality, security or happiness? I'd be interested to read your thoughts...

11 comments:

  1. Hello,Ashley,

    I don't think that anyone associated with Oh Get a Grip could ever be considered "mainstream"... nor am I sure that you should aspire to be. You are uniquely Ashley Lister. It's difficult to imagine anything more alternative! Anyone who read your naughty, bawdy verse would know that in a minute!

    Hugs and grins,
    Lisabet

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  2. Lisabet,

    I suppose none of us here at the Grip are mainstream. I hadn't thought to mention the poetry - even though I'm doing some performance work with the poetry tomorrow evening.

    So, at least I have mainstream forgetfulness :-)

    Best,

    Ash

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  3. You didn't mention going back to school as an adult and becoming a teacher, which was a magnificent, and unusual accomplishment.

    So now I wonder what else you're hiding behind that veneer of respectability.

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  4. Ash - to many, the fact the you clean is against the mainstream ; ) I know our household, where my husband does the cleaning and I do the cooking (not because I am a great cook, but because what I make is at least edible), where I work outside the home, and he works from home and is the primary caregiver for our daughter, is considered to be against the mainstream.

    Certainly, I would consider the fact that you were a non-traditional student goes against the mainstream.

    Good post, as always.

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  5. Kathleen,

    I am tickled by the idea of me having a veneer of respectability. I'm off to perform some of my own poetry this evening, one of which revolves around a theme of matricide and another which includes references to g-spots and fisting.

    I guess I've shattered my own dreams of mainstream.

    Best,

    Ash

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  6. Michelle,

    The truth is: I really enjoy cleaning. It's an undemanding chore that gives me a chance to have my hands busy and my conscious mind occupied whilst my subconscious mind is free to consider plot directions, character developments and other important elements of the fiction I'm working on.

    I'm glad to hear you and Mr H are making a success of your non-conventional lifestyle.

    Best,

    Ash

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  7. Hi Ashley!

    I'm very suspicious of mainstream. A mainstream person is often someone who just hides it better. Like Lisabet says, we wouldn't be here if we were totally plain folks.

    Writing poems about kittens or maybe "my angry lesbian breasts" is mainstream. Stuff like you;re reading tonight - that ain;t mainstream.

    Garce

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  8. Garce,

    I seriously wish you could have been at the poetry event this evening. We had an audience of 80+ and they were wonderful and enthusiastic. You really would have gotten a kick out of the experience.

    Ash

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  9. I would have. I've never been to a poetry reading. I'd love to see one.

    Garce

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  10. I never realized how much you enjoyed cleaning. As I've said on many occasions, you're welcome to stay here when you finally make it over to NYC. And If you feel the urge to clean something--well, I won't stop you! Please, let me reiterate my invitation!

    Oh and, mainstream my ass (that would be arse to you)!

    Diane

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  11. Diane,

    When I arrive in New York (airports permitting) I shall bring my scouring pads, polishing kits and possibly my French Maid's outfit.

    What could be more mainstream than that?

    Ash

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