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7/23/06
The dinner that never was/It isn't a conversation if you tell me what to say.

Dear Kim,

It is New Year's Eve. I have to resist my winter tendency to stay in my womb on the 13th floor and venture down the street to welcome in the coming year at a friend's party. Although it is clear to me that my relationship with Pseudonym is faltering in its present incarnation, I am hopeful that we can reshape it into a friendship that is functional. And to not spend New Year’s Eve with my lover seems nothing short of cruel.

So a partying we will go.

This plan seems less complicated than a romantic dinner in which I cannot lie or try to perform an intimacy I no longer feel. Frankly, I am grateful for this invitation that can offer a neutral and maybe even playful ground for both of us.

There will be lights and the fragrant remnants of a real Christmas tree. There will be a blazing fire and champagne toasts, a creaky old dog that likes petting and friends that I see maybe once or twice a year.

These seem like good things. Manageable things.

Then there will be the conversation.

It is usually the same conversation. Perhaps you know it:

How are you?

What have you been up to?

It does not interest me to talk casually about my work. I either want to talk deeply about it or not at all. And to recite a Readers Digest version which I have learned to keep handy somehow always sounds self promotional.

It does not feel right to me to say how I am, when how I am is so complicated these days by my concerns about my sister's illness or my faltering relationship with Pseudonym or my growing restlessness to write more and arts administrate less.

I can sometimes skirt some of this if I steer the conversation to other people.

Sometimes, but not always. In many settings, I am seen as the exotic because I appear to live a more adventurous life than many.

Yet, if I can remove my irritation from the mix, I realize that these are kind enough inquiries.

Would I prefer that no one asked at all?

How ungrateful I sometimes am. I am ashamed.

My building is filled with people lonely for a connection, any connection. I see them in the elevator and the laundry room. I see them sometimes wandering downstairs to talk with the doorman when the television will no longer do it.

I realize that the small talk we perform is a kind of balm against the terror of the night. It is how we search to find common ground and some comfort for ourselves and each other.

I will work hard to remind myself of these things before I venture down the street to Laura's party and to remember that there is much I love about Pseudonym and have shared over the past year, even as we struggle to define a way we can relate that feels good for both of us.

She asked yesterday what I would wear. And I wondered, what is appropriate for New Year’s Eve. Not the same way I wondered and gave inadequate consideration to what to wear to the Christmas Party for Bonnie’s mother.

There, there was a dress code. It was largely waspy and I clearly violated it.

Laura and her partner Maryann are cool people. There will be no such dress code and they will warmly welcome everyone who shows up at their party. Whomever and however they are dressed. With whatever friends or partners they may bring.

The dress code is for me.

I wonder, if a New Year’s Eve party is to recognize the old and usher in the new, what takes precedence? We only literally count in the new with ten seconds.

Ten. . .

Nine . . .

Eight . . .

Seven . . .

Six . . .

Five . . .

Four. . .

Three . . .

Two . . .

One . . .

So, maybe I should dress for the passage of the past year. And if I did that, what would it look like?

The sweats that I wore sleeping on a chair in the hospital for a week tending to my sister?

The bathing suit that is thinning from the chlorine from my laps at the downtown Y?

The studded jeans and low-cut tops I began wearing again recently when I realized I was feeling more sexual, not less with the passage of time?

The tee shirt with our logo and black pants that have been my staple of performance for the past ten years with the DisAbility Project?

The pink oversized pajamas with coffee stains into which I escape on a hard day’s night?

The brace I wear when I walk the treadmill to support the knee in which I tore my ACL and my meniscus in an accident in Toronto?

The sleeve I wear on my left arm when it swells in the summer because my surgeon removed 23 lymph nodes eight years ago to see if my cancer had spread?

The high heeled pink mules that I bought with Laurel in Venice in which I cannot comfortably walk or stand but which remind me how much I love pretty things?

What would I wear?

And what might a drawing for these selves look like?

Happy New Year, friend. May the coming year bring continued health and happiness for all you hold dear, the possibility for peace in the world, more opportunity and less poverty, and the time to pursue what calls most to you.

Later,

Joan

Saturday, Dec 31, 2005

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