Monthly Archives: June 2009

She climbs into bed

It’s not “new” content, but I wanted to test the waters with using creative works here instead of articles. I’ll be guaging your responses carefully, so please comment.

**

She climbs into bed, lays down besides you. Her hand reaches over and softly touches your shoulder. You’re not awake, groggy and exhausted and altogether not in the moment with her.

“I’ve been putting on my medicine,” she says, “so that we can have sex again. I’m horny, and I want you.”

Your body, with little regard to your perceptions, starts that chain of reactions that desires for release, that empathizes with her plight. She wants you, and your body wants release.

You’ve been fighting, you two, and you’ve threatened to leave. In reality, you know you will leave. You know that it’s over, that she can’t do anything to make you stay, that her every effort at reconciliation pushes you away further because it was inspired by a fight, by fear of your leaving rather than by love of you. You like in the most abstract sense that she wants you, but she should’ve wanted you before that dreadful night, before that explosion of “You used to love me! Where did it go?” and her admission, her response that she knew it had gone and she didn’t know why or where. But still she wants you, to have you.

None of that matters now. She’s crawled into bed with you, and she’s woken you up and told you she wants you. The idea of a blowjob, vague and nonspecific, floats into your mind. Your erection starts to form, causes you to roll onto your stomach, pushes at the twisted cloth of your boxers.

The idea of a blowjob wakes you up, completely awake, and she lays beside you, telling you that she wants you.

“Should I shut up and let you sleep?” she asks. You grunt in response, becoming aware that sleep is leaving you involuntarily and won’t be gotten again until this scene plays out.

You take her hand and put it against your straining hardness, hoping against your ever-increasing cognizance that she’ll do it, that she’ll act on impulse and please you.

“Not now,” she says. “I’m all medicined up. I’m filled with medicine.”

You push her hand away, awake and horny and rejected and annoyed.

“Don’t be grumpy,” she pleads. “I want to have sex with you, but I can’t like this.”

You ask yourself what the fuck she had woken you up for, then.

“I’m not grumpy,” you say. And it’s true. Grumpy is a cute little kids word that can’t come close to describing the ferocious tendencies towards destruction your emotions are encapsulating at this point. You turn away from her, fetal position, your pulled back hips making your arousal increasingly uncomfortable. You spit, “You woke me up at three in the morning to be a cock-tease.”

“Not to tease you! I want to but I can’t!” She’s desperate. She doesn’t know how to stop the spiraling descent of your exhausted deflation. She wants to blame you for this in some small, innocent way. She thinks that her intentions were good when she woke you up. She had just wanted to talk; you were the one that wanted to fuck.

“I’m not grumpy. I’m tired and horny. And I’m awake.” The last one isn’t true. You fall back asleep within seconds.

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Author: Greg Freed

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Filed under Creative nonfiction, Writing

Controlling passion

This blog post is complete but is also part of a larger article. Your reactions in the comments will decide how quickly I move on to part 2.

Also, I’m still looking for user submissions for the creative part of this blog. Message me with a real story from your life as brief or as full as you’d like, and I’ll make a fiction story out of it.

**

Look into your lovers eyes, those great orbs in whose depths passion has stirred and whose force has partaken in the greatest moments of your life. Her life is crumbling: run your fingers through her hair and tell her it will be alright. She’s put on weight, and her fear of her mother’s harsh criticism has driven her hysterical: call to her lightly, put your hand on her stomach, and tell her that your opinion is the one that matters and that she looks good to you. Look into those eyes and lie. We convince ourselves of the necessity: sometimes such lies are necessary, sometimes little white lies help instead of hurt.
A girl looked at me once, halfway a woman but not quite and me not yet a man, she looked deep into my eyes, placed her hand on mine in the darkness of her Chevy Malibu, and requested of me, “Promise me you’ll never make me cry.” That’s one of those opportunities we men see at the start of nearly every relationship. You listen to her cry about lost loves and what bastards they all were, and then she turns to you and asks you not to treat her like they treated her, to love her where they failed. You don’t know yet whether you can succeed in this task or not—the relationship is young, unformed, and you are inexperienced with her quirks and she with yours. All you know is that you can make her happy if you agree to this demand, and she may leave you if you refuse.

For better or worse, I refused. I told her that I don’t make promises I can’t keep. Thus started the next three torrential years of my life with Christina, artsy Christina, parasitic flower whose maintenance killed me and whose beauty would made me glad to die in such service.

Perhaps six months went by before she asked me her next favor. Christina and I were driving around doing errands in that little blue Chevy of hers when she asked me to promise that I would never cheat on her. Promise me, nineteen year old boy, that for the rest of your life (for I thought our relationship might just last that long) you will never love a woman other than me. She didn’t even make the promise specifically carnal; she asked me to never love another woman.

We know what to do in this situation. We know that the aesthetically correct response is to blindly say, “Yes, honey. You’re my girlfriend, I love you, and I would never cheat on you.” But I’m a man of principle, and I had already refused her once on the grounds that I don’t make promises I can’t make in good faith. I knew that I could not fulfill this one, and I declined; I said I would not promise it, and I didn’t.

I’m not asking today why Christina asked for such a token: I’ve heard her request from multiple sources and have answered it the same way every time. My response is the issue at hand. I’ve also heard the enough responses to my argument to call some standard or cliché. Let me deal with a few superstitions:

1) Fidelity is not a matter assumed virtue can resist. While traveling, I once found myself surrounded by four muggers. I wrestled in high school and trained lightly in several martial arts throughout my life; perhaps I could have fought back. But in a strange country, I let the mugging occur without resistance; I put my hands up in the air and let them slide my wallet out of my back pocket. Several friends, especially those currently in the armed forces, have said that they would have fought back. Others said I acted rightly by potentially negotiating my wallet for my life; perhaps one of them had a knife, or maybe four to one is a bad enough ratio for a deadly beating. Either out of fear or self-knowledge, I knew that I didn’t possess the ability to fight off my attackers. Others assure themselves in the abstract that they have the means at their disposal to resist such wrongs. Only fortune may provide them with an opportunity to back up their boasts.

2) Sexual acts are not always motivated by desire. Just as with any other human action—in fact, sex is rather notorious for this particular aspect, but people seem to forget its complexity when talking about infidelity—sex involves multiple and often warring emotions, including but not limited to confusion, daring, fear, and repression. When I got out of an asexual relationship last November, I traveled and found an opportunity to have sex with someone I didn’t desire at all, one of my sister’s close friends, and we did. Even in hindsight I can’t really say why; some have said that alcohol was a factor, others that sexual frustration from the prior relationship surely played a part, but neither correctly constitute my frame of mind in that moment. My sister was sleeping in the next room; perhaps voyeurism was the feather that broke my hesitation.Perhaps not; a confusing mist obscures the whole situation. I remember thinking as the scene was building, “I can stop this.” The scene was so fragile that just making an impolite or awkward comment, or perhaps just the no when she asked if she could climb into my bed so politely, would’ve made her retreat. But I didn’t, and we did, and there’s no clear-cut issue at hand except that desire itself had little to do with my part in the story.

3) I am not weak-willed. Friends and girlfriends often ask in relation to this refusal of mine whether I can imagine a situation in which I would cheat on them. Though I’m a fairly creative person, I cannot, never can. Just as much as any middle-class American, I hold fidelity as one of my primary values and assumptions in a relationship, especially once the relationship is official. Just as I can act on the principle of refusing to make promises I can’t keep in the face of adversity, I must suppose that I could hold to the principle of fidelity in the face of desire.

Point three, of course, goes back to the two previous superstitions: A situation wouldn’t necessarily spawn from my desire, and even though I feel confident at a distance saying that I wouldn’t act when confronted with my own passion, I know neither what pressures will appear during the confrontation of another’s passion nor how I might react. I do know, however, a great many men choose infidelity when given the chance and then are at a loss for how to explain their choice. I’m also aware that these other men’s decisions are not a matter of financial or political class; infidelity occurs in middle and lower class alike, in Republican and Democrat alike. This information gives me pause, and I wonder how anyone goes along with the promise in the face of such widespread and misunderstood failure except by ignoring the question and simply responding “Yes” because we know that’s the right answer.

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Author: Greg Freed

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Filed under Criticism, Humanistic

Youth in the workplace

An issue that’s close to home was revisited by my girlfriend Ashley the other day. We’ve both worked in offices where our youth made us stand out from the rest of the work force. It reminds me of one of my favorite analogies of the workplace: A corporation is like a tree full of monkeys: the monkeys at the top look down and see a bunch smiling faces, and the monkeys on the bottom look up and see a bunch of assholes. What the analogy doesn’t say is that monkeys are known to throw feces at each other, and in my experience, the whole treeful will aim for the lowest monkey most of the time.

Pressures run high in small business environments, especially new offices under seasoned overhead and low-budget not-for-profits. Directors feel the need to cut corners in order to make the book as black as possible, and one of the easiest corners to cut is to hire a novice to fill an insubstantial role. At first, the young and bushy-tailed worker looks for all the world like an anime schoolgirl who just had all her dreams fulfilled: wide and wet eyed, and jubilant.

One error continually recurs in all-to-common for us young-professionals situation: the pressure stored up in the older coworkers suddenly has a pinhole through which it finds release, and no one has the time or initiative to provide protection for the weakest link in the team.

Take Ashley’s situation, for example. One week she’s sick and isn’t in the office; the next week she’s in Florida. Her boss has agreed heartily to both absences, having been aware far in advance of the trip to Florida and nearly commanding that Ashley stay home when she was sick. During her absence, one of her coworkers places a piece of inter-departmental mail on a shelf above Ashley’s desk with no note specifying what type of mail it is or what department it needs to go to. Upon Ashley’s return, the coworker asks why the mail hadn’t been delivered yet and berates Ashley for not being vigilant about her workplace.

It could’ve ended there, but Ashley complained about her coworker’s rudeness to her boss. At first, her boss presented a mail-drop solution that the coworker could’ve used to specify that her parcel was inter-office mail without having had to speak to Ashley directly. No communication took place with the coworker to reach a better communication solution.

That also could’ve been the end of the situation. But Ashley’s boss has a lot on her plate this week and so is also under pressure. Later in the week, long after the situation had been at least partly resolved, Ashley’s boss pulled her into the office and told her that complaining about how a coworker treats you is unprofessional. She also went on to talk about how Ashley was obviously “losing enthusiasm for her job” and that she hoped and knew that one day soon the duties of an administrative assistant would just “click” (as if an administrative assistant’s responsibilities are so heavy that they’re not just a matter of training).

Take into account that Ashley’s boss made no specific complaints about Ashley’s work, schedule, or attitude. When Ashley asked for a specific criticism so that she could make an effort to improve her boss’s opinion of her, her boss said that she didn’t have any specific complaints.

Now let’s make a move I’ve made before and compare workplace politics to relationships. If a guy or girl you’re dating and comes up to you saying, “Things just aren’t working out. It’s not really anything specific, I’m just not into it,” what’s your response? Fucking bullshit! Why? Because if there is no specific complaint, then there’s no complaint at all. The person is just hurting you; you know it, they know it. The symptoms of using obviously poor communications to wound are undeniable.

Second is the fact that Ashley’s boss is a social worker with over twenty years experience under her belt. I’ve met the woman: she knows how to talk. Talking is her job, and you can be sure if only by her years of professional experience that she knows that in order to properly communicate to fix a problem, specifics need to be mentioned and addressed. If she’s aware of that, why doesn’t she mention specifics when Ashley asks for them? Simple: they don’t exist. Ashley’s boss is using an unprotected workplace peon to relieve her stress.

It’s not uncommon, and one of the main reasons corporations employ human resources, aside from taking the responsibility of paperwork away from people whose jobs lay in other areas, is to handle poor office communications, to act as mediators in disagreements in order to make a workplace more amenable. A harsh reality comes sharply into focus for a young employee at this point: you’re easily replaced, and HR doesn’t give a fuck about you.

When in a directly parallel situation, I complained to my boss about the way a coworker was treating me. My coworker was in her early thirties and in charge of a large data-entry project worth a lot of money to the company. I, on the other hand, was a young copyeditor who had foolishly drained my workpool and, when eagerly looking to help around the office, had been placed on the data-entry project as my coworkers’s working subordinate. Therefore, my boss told me to can it and get back to work; it’s unprofessional to complain about mistreatment in the workplace.

I knuckled under this coworker for months. She made me and several others on the data entry project cry through her sheer abuse, and yet nothing could be done to get around it. The business was small and had no real HR program, and my only real boss told me to suck it up. When I asked my parents for advice, they told me to look for a new job and in the meantime suck it up. So I did. I sucked good and hard until I was purple in the face, until the sound of her boot heels thumping down the thinly-carpeted wood floor gave me heartburn.

In the meantime, my coworker complained to my boss about me, about my work ethic, about how slowly I worked and how many errors I inputted into her system. I had no defense against these complaints when my boss pulled me into her office to talk about it. Then my boss had me sign a sheet of paper that told me if my coworker’s opinion of my work didn’t improve in thirty days, she would fire me. I asked my parents what to do again, and my father told me to take notes about the amount of work I was doing versus the other employees and the harsh and unprofessional feedback my coworker was giving to me and others. I took notes.

After two weeks my boss pulled me in to tell me that my coworker’s opinion of me hadn’t improved and that she was preparing to fire me. This time I fought; I pulled in all of my notes about my hours, my productivity, my coworker’s rudeness. My sense of injustice had become so inflamed that I was sure my boss would finally move me to a different project, would finally confront my coworker about her inhumanity. Lolz: doesn’t that prove how young I was then?

My boss told me to go back to my desk and to prepare myself for what was coming in two weeks. I did, thanking my fucking lucky stars that they would finally fire me and force me to move on. Like Strong Bad says, “Oh, that’s it! I am so totally not going to quit this job but complain about it a little bit more!”

The off-site seasoned overhead found it prudent to fire my boss in the midst of all this and hire a replacement in a less-powerful role. My coworker immediately complained to this new boss about me, putting me again on thin ice. However, the paper stating that my old boss was going to fire me got magically lost in the sudden turnover. My new boss pulled me into her office and asked me about my coworker’s complaints. I told her that they were totally untrue and that I had documentation showing that my her were unfounded. My boss laughed at the documentation and had no interest in seeing it, of course. Still, Mom and Dad, it would’ve been a good idea if the dynamic hadn’t stunk so thoroughly of abuse.

I told my new boss that I would prove myself if she would just put me on a different project, which she did. The move didn’t improve my situation with that coworker at all, but it did make my job measurably better. When I completed my work on the new project, my boss took me under her wing to help her organize all of my old boss’s notes and to database freelance editors’ resumes and even contact some. I almost began to like that job again.

One day after she had been there about three months, my new boss pulled me into her office at the end of a workday to tell me the following: “I know that your coworker’s complaints about you are unfounded. I’ve been watching you like a hawk ever since I got here, and you’ve worked like a dog on that other project and for me. But now you’re doing the work of an administrative assistant, not a copyeditor, and we’re paying you to be a copyeditor. We’ve decided to terminate your position: I have to let you go.”

And that was that. It didn’t matter that I had thwarted my coworker’s complaints about my work ethic; it didn’t matter that I was so efficient at my job that they couldn’t keep me in work. All that mattered was that I was young and dispensable. After months of suffering under that coworker and months of reproving myself to the office, it ended.

I see in Ashley’s position exactly what I saw in mine, a young professional with no umbrella to protect him(/her) from the abuse of stressed out coworkers. Sometimes (Is it just sometimes? Usually?) people will shit on you if they can get away with it. They think it makes them feel better; you can’t do anything to get even (except maybe set their lawn on fire).

So to all the older coworkers and bosses out there who pick on the young worker in the office because you can, this post is a big fuck you. To all the workers who are considering taking a job where they know that their coworkers will be older than them but still think that age shouldn’t be an issue, it is; don’t take that job. To every young worker who is now in the position and suddenly realizing that there is no protection for themselves from this shitstorm, you have two choices: knuckle under and deal with it, or stand up for yourself. Either way, it’s likely you’ll be fired, and best to leave with your head high than covered in corporate-monkey feces.

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Author: Greg Freed

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Filed under Criticism, Workplace

Oh yeah, I talk about publishing, too

I forgot to mention in my purpose draft that I intend to use this blog to critique the publishing industry as well, particularly book publishers.

My largest critique of today’s book publishing industry (though it obviously applies to media across the board): Bumping up money on marketing and publicity while draining funds from editorial. A direct metaphor for this situation, imo, is draining a lake to flush your sewage system: at the end of the day, you’ll still have shit to flush but nothing to drink.

Listeners often react to this criticism by saying that it’s paradoxical or ideal. The idea is that there’s a line with good books at one extreme and good business on the other extreme, and they suppose that ne’er the twain shall meet. They say that is good business and that, especially in an industry whose sum value is worth less than Paramount Pictures (at least that’s what they told me at Emerson), good business trumps good content.

But I disagree. While in the short term marketing and publicity are able to sell books that people buy without a second thought, the books that sell on publicity and marketing don’t prosper into their later years. They, like Marguerite Duras’ face, age prematurely; or perhaps, as the industry saying goes, they have the shelf-life of yogurt.

Our industry does not sell dairy, though, nor stuff that expires at all. We sell knowledge; we sell mental value. If we can’t maintain that one primal distinction– primal because it sets us, book publishers, apart from other media distributors–then readers will not continue to prefer books over other content, other that is more exciting, other that is more stimulating, other that is more entertaining. We know that movies catch us out on the one, that theater on the second, that television on the third. We’re educated people with the intelligence to know where we’re beat. But what we have that others don’t, the force that both defines reading as an event and as an industry, is an insight into the psychology of characters that no other media can even approach. As long as we have that, we have sales.

But we no longer have that, nor do we promise it. We promise excitement and all the other things, because that’s what makes good marketing. So we sell one book powerfully up front, but it neither backlists nor works to maintain consumers as readers instead of moviegoers, instead of theatergoers, instead of televisiongoers. And if we can’t convince them to enjoy our product over those others, then they won’t.

Take, for example, this news from Publisher’s Lunch about Simon and Schuster’s latest marketing drive on Stephen King’s behalf: unsolicited text messages sent directly to cell phones.

1) It’s Stephen fucking King. You pay him million dollar advances because each of his new books sell themselves, at least for six months so that you can make back your advance. I won’t rag on Stephen King–he’s an entertainer who consistently generates a low quality of work that has a market (the man calls himself the McDonald’s of publishing for a reason)–but people that know about him know about him. Those who like his books will buy them, and those who don’t won’t. In America, there aren’t many book consumers who don’t fall in either of those categories. He doesn’t need new marketing ideas at this point in his career; just put up your posters, maybe have a TV commercial, and call it a day.

2) Spam mail is one thing that customers will look at. It came in our mailboxes, and we groaned. It came in our email inboxes, and we struggled a little. I guarantee you, marketers, that the day you start sending spam to something I have in my pocket with me all day long, I will take that cellphone with me to your office place, clench my fist tightly around it, and punch you in the face until its plastic mold breaks. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals doesn’t think I’m alone on this one. I guess since the lower court ruled in favor of you, it’s not so sad that you tried to defend yourself on this ridiculous count of foolery, but why you ever ran with this idea in the first place, I don’t know. It’s a good marketing idea, bad business idea. Two words: Ill will.

That’s enough for today. Leave comments, even if it’s just a smiley face. Thanks for visiting!

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Filed under Criticism, Publishing, Statement of purpose

Hello world! [sic]

Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!

**

It’s only fitting in the Age of the Rant that I start my first blogging post with hate-filled bile, isn’t it? Google, sweet Google, get your Sites act together plz. No native vistor-comment tools? No integration of Google Docs with websites that have decided to use your tools on websites other than sites.google.com/a/etc? No feedback or assistance outside of 2+2=4 and other user-generated semi-tech garble that only apologizes for your lack of sophistication with ass-backward hacks? Not gonna fly these days, my corporate friend. I guess that’s not the business you’re looking for, since you haven’t updated your tools since 2007, but it’d be nice enough if you wouldn’t tease me with their phantasmal existence. Also, give me GregFreed.com back without a fight, plz. kthx.

That said, let’s discuss the focus of this blog:

First – Creation: I will be putting writing samples and ideas in this blog, including fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. I’m currently enrolled in Emerson College’s MFA in Creative Writing, where I focus on nonfiction, especially memoir. Please do not reproduce them for profit without permission, and if you do use or reproduce them, give credit at least and let me know.

Second – Criticism: I will focus on the media I consume (old books, new movies, and modern rock music), the establishments I frequent (restaurants and hang-outs), and ideas I come across. I will also focus on the cities I have lived in (Dallas and Boston) and those I visit. I cannot promise that all of the critiques will come in the straight-forward prose we’re used to; in fact, I mean to take the practice in a bit of a different direction.

I hope that with a scope as broadly focused as my life, this blog will come to represent me in some small way. I suppose in the an era defined by self-engrandizement, that’s no new task, but I also intend to capitalize on the talent I see in myself and that others have recognized; my first desire is to have my voice escape myself.

I’ll start with a mild update schedule of Mondays and Thursdays just to make sure I can locate or generate the content necessary to keep a blog going, something I’ve always doubted. At this point, I’d like to shut my trap and see some thumbs-up from friends and potential readers. First post Monday!

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Filed under Criticism, Statement of purpose