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...