An unreliable narration

Girl standing near dining table viewing wall with water drops. Photo by  Jenn O’Hara  on  Scopio

To start, I was born. Some people talk about how they remember being a baby or something but I think they’re liars. That’s just some precociousness like when suburban moms tell everyone their kid can speak Mandarin at age 3. I don’t remember anything before I was probably about 3 or 4 years old, and these things have been warped by time to the extent that their validity is in question. But so it this entire reflection I suppose. People in my life will say that I’m a very unreliable narrator, which isn’t terrible if you’re trying to make something that people want to read. A reliable narrator would be deathly boring – nobody wants a retelling of how every morning for the last 6 months you made soft-boiled eggs in the microwave and had to adjust the amount of time cooking for the size of the eggs and each brand having their own size, sometimes smaller ones from Aldi exploding. That’s all true by the way and all we needed to devote to it was that one sentence. Anything more and you’re trying to be James Joyce and you can’t get away with that kind of writing if your story is modern enough to have a microwave in it. 

One of my first memories was with my sister when she was living at home, she’s 13 years older than me and moved out to go to college so I was probably 3 or 4. I wasn’t in school yet or I would’ve learned better. I was coloring at night past my bedtime (in retrospect, this explains why I was so emotional) and it was a picture of a dog with a collar. I accidentally colored with marker over the dog’s tag which I wanted to make yellow since that was the closest in my marker pack to gold. I went to Jenny (my sister)’s room and asked her how I could mix colors to make yellow again and she told me the heartbreaking truth that no color can be mixed to make yellow. I cried. 

I also remember telling my brother adamantly that the letter “G” made a hard sound as in “gut” and he snapped back that it made a soft sound like in “gel” and my dad telling us we were both right. We were in the basement in the Typewriter Room cause there was a typewriter down there and I have no clue what we were doing with it but I think we just wanted to be around the typewriter while Dad was doing something on it. 

I loved the typewriter. It was hard to push down the buttons and when you did it was loud and forceful, the BANG! of each letter pressing down was so finite. My mom was always a fast typist and showed me how to erase with the little blurrer thing but I was never good at it. I think that was the point, you had to basically get everything perfectly right the first time you typed it. I remember watching How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and there’s a scene where they sing A Secretary is Not a Toy and there is a whole room of secretaries typing and I was just puzzled. WTF are they all typing? Then my dad explained to me that basically they’d have to type out things that someone else dictated and wrote by hand. In that movie (and probably real life) all the people doing the dictating were men and all the people doing the writing were women. I pointed that out to my dad and asked why men didn’t just type themselves, and he said some of them didn’t learn to type. What a fucking society. Those women were definitely getting up at 4 AM to put their hair in beehives and men didn’t have time to learn to type. Or their thoughts were so important that they had to spend their precious time thinking more of them rather than writing them out themselves. I wonder if someone had a boss who was really an asshole, if they just changed what he wrote sometimes to screw up his life.

I wonder now if anything I write about my life, if it was ever published, would be labeled as feminist lit, just because of honest realizations like that. I think the essence of privilege is that you don’t have to worry that your life’s memoir is going to be cataloged into a certain part of the bookstore.

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