Thursday, June 7, 2012

It's Safer Not to Look Down

She is walking, as carefully as she can, up and down the hallway between her bedroom and the bathroom. She is sure she can learn to walk as gracefully as a fairy princess in her new 3-inch heels before the old-fashioned dance party. It’s just a matter of practice.


It’s Dad. His tone is ambiguous – not exactly angry but subtly threatening: You’re 13, young lady, and that’s much too young to have breasts and hips. How much further are you planning to go? Don’t you think you should have consulted your parents?

Lindsay trips on a knot in the hardwood of the floor.

Dad appears. “Pride goeth before a fall,” he preaches.

Whatever, she thinks. Pride, really? And yet she feels a trace of it, like a little egg in one of her ovaries that could, under the right fertilizing conditions, become a whole human being, with her as the Creator-Goddess.

Pride. She needs to chew on that concept. She needs to taste it and coax it to grow.
Pride. Not yet, but maybe someday. And when she has it, she’ll stumble for no one. Not even herself.


Kevin loves to read. He was never good at sports until he turned 16, and by then the pushes and shoves, the sarcasm and budding machismo of the other guys made him realize he had to choose: find a cave to hide in or change his image. So he practiced and practiced with his dad and his only real friend, then tried out for the basketball team. He was rejected. So he kept practicing and waiting.

He entered university and tried out for the basketball team. He was accepted.

Games take time away from his reading. But after all, Kevin thinks, a man has his pride. And his shame.


When Sarah married Will, she wanted to be his Muse, or the wind beneath his wings. She knew his parents had pressured him to major in business admin so he could eventually take over the family store, even though he only wanted to play jazz cornet and sometimes trumpet, to fill the air with blue notes and brilliantly improvised riffs that would float up to the moon. When Sarah got pregnant, he blamed her. After the baby was born, the sleepless nights turned Sarah into a zombie and Will into a time-bomb. He hit her. She left because her pride wouldn’t let her stay for one more wrong note.

Ann-Marie married Jean-Luc because he was a rising jazz musician, the most talented man she knew. He hated the insecure income, the cutthroat rivalry, the mortgage and the bills. When Ann-Marie bought a new outfit to wear to one of his gigs, he accused her of wasting his money and coming on to all the other guys in the band. She bit back the words in her head, and laughed to keep them down. He hit her. She stayed indoors for a week, then covered the bruises with makeup. Her pride wouldn’t let her leave, or tell anyone else what she didn’t want to admit.


Gay Pride. Gay-lesbian-bisexual-Transgender Pride. Queer Pride. Love and Pride. Supposedly, these are the feelings we celebrate in June, approximately on the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, an uprising in a disreputable bar in Greenwich Village in 1969 when the cops appeared, as usual, to raid the place.

Since then, we’ve become so proud we can hardly recognize our former selves. I’ve been told that my annual description of that event is inappropriate, outdated. It’s camp. (I’m no longer on the organizing committee, and I haven’t been invited to give my talk this year.) In this day and age, we’re not disreputable and we’re certainly not violent.


I’m proud of a novel that was just republished in paperback by the new publisher. I didn’t write the book, or even contribute to it as an editor or beta-reader, so why am I proud? Because I introduced the novelist to several potential new publishers on-line. Once the novelist & new publisher had chosen each other and entered negotiations, it was all between them, but I made the match. I am like the nut, the bolt or the ball bearing without which the structure couldn’t remain upright or the car couldn’t burn up the road.

Pride. It’s a slippery thing.


  1. I was wondering if you would write on this topic, because its so close to your heart and experience. I'm sorry to hear though they won;t be letting you speak this year. why is that if I may ask/


  2. This is like half a dozen posts in one, Jean. So many perspectives on that single little word of our topic.

    Thank you!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.