Sunday, February 21, 2010

Write it out, girl: just the fax; incest

Mid-1999, I was working for the great Condé Nast empire. At that point I may have still have freelance. My time there was short as it usually is for me. The thing is, that as I stood at the fax machine, punching in numbers to send some document to H.R.--I was not in the great Time Square building where shoulders could brush against Anna Wintour's, but a pale office suite on Madison Avenue--it hit me.

My body registered the strangest and most unexpected muscle memory of incest. Me being as verbal as I am, I received a telegraph from my corpus reading something like: There's a reason you were so remarkably unhappy a teen.

Except it was probably more like the neon extravaganzas up and down Broadway, flashing images. In my case they were not of the latest Hollywood stars.

Taking the long view, which I am able to do spot on (I am supremely logical too often), I wasn't surprised. My weird ups and downs and other various of my emotional states paralleled those I'd read were the case for women who'd been ill-used by family. It made sense--huh, well I saw that coming--and at the same time I was stunned. Flattened.

I decided to trust my body with what it was telling me--and no more. I wasn't going to point a finger or pretend to know specifics. My body hadn't specified, although my memories begged for a rolling list of credits. Equally and more importantly, I wasn't going to let this bit of information fall back into my body for another slug of years. 1999? Jesus, Lord have mercy. I was 50.

I have experience parenting myself and parented this: Best thing it to tell three friends--and soon. I'm still pretty proud I chose to do that. I had--and have--really trustworthy pals who can hear the worst and not faint. I phoned three of them and described exactly what I felt at the fax machine and why I was telling them.

They heard me.

Of course I couldn't resist the fax/facts connection. Even as the first buzz of memory came to me, I thought of Jack Webb, Dragnet, Just the facts, ma'am.

The unpacking of this revelation is the work of a lifetime, conscious or not. In other words, I was unpacking before I could see what was in the suitcase, and once I had access its contents, my unpacking was more useful.

Why tell you this? I am sitting here, reading a novel (Robert Harris' The Ghost, in preparation for the new Polanski movie) (isn't that funny: Polanski, the rascal misuer of young women; sidebar: he should stand trial, though I can never forget what it was like in L.A. during the Sharon Tate murders and trial--Polanski has led a life).

Where was I? Oh, here in this great chair my friend David gave to me (from his living room), with a host of ideas coming to me for possible blog posts, and me pushing them away, preferring not to write. So I have come up with an ultimate tale in the spirit of: Tell it! Say it!

Write, girl. Whether it's about an old difficult memory or a book I'm reading, write, share, there's no reason to keep secrets. Don't wait for some great idea. You already have it. Don't wait.

Note: That's Anna Wintour, up there. I considered using an image of the famous $35 million cafeteria with titanium fixtures, but, hey.


  1. Brilliant, Sarah. You handled it just right.
    I have a sister-in-law who is still obsessing over her unhappy family history, decades later.
    She became a minister and counselor to others, but the physician cannot heal herself.

  2. Thank you, Gail. Much appreciated.