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Q and A

Nov 16, 2012; Fisherman Todd Asks:

Stacey, Are you attracted to black men? Thank you.

Stacey answers:


Nov 13, 2012; Frobisher Gleeson Asks:

Howdy. I would like to know your take on "Cloud Atlas," either the movie or the book. Mainly the movie though, because I saw it but did not read the book. I enjoyed the movie very much. Did you see it? Did you like it, and what is your review, if you have one to give. Thank you!

Stacey answers:

Frobisher! I feel like I've done my time with Cloud Atlas by reading it, though I can imagine it might be a cool movie. As a book I found it uneven (parts are great, parts are tedious), and annoyingly coy about being a fantasy/sci-fi novel (though maybe that was my problem). In general, I'm not a big fan of the recent explosion of the novels-in-stories form because, well, what's wrong with stories? No one called Winesburg, Ohio a novel because it's not; it's fantastic and intricate and interesting and you don't have to read it in order. The topic of fragmentation impresses me less ever since I realized how much easier it is to write a bunch of disparate things on a theme and make the reader tie it together in their brain than to write a unified novel. But as those kinds of books go, Cloud Atlas was better than most. You actually do have to read it in order. You should! Just skip all the parts about the 70's woman snooping around corporate headquarters.

Nov 12, 2012; Win-Again's Fake Asks:

Stacey, you wrote that when you're older you know how to deal with assholes. I would like to learn from your wisdom on this: How do you deal with assholes? Also, how do you prevent becoming an asshole? Where is the divide between asshole and non-asshole, and please do not tell me there taint such a thing. Another question: How do you use your hotness, and is it possible to use too much hotness? But here is another question about getting older: Friends. What becomes of friends? I have friends who have friend-dumped me. I have also had to friend-dump some friends. What happened here? Friends used to be very close and loyal. Now one minute they're on your side, and the next minute they're all, "Why are you calling me?" Then I am left with this feeling in the pit of my stomach like I did something wrong and don't know what, and probably will never find out.

Stacey answers:

Actually, I wrote that with age you learn what to do when someone is an asshole, which is different than how to deal with them because in my definition, an asshole is someone who can't be dealt with. I, too, used to think there was some supergreat way to dispatch difficult people but I finally realized that there's only the best way for each person, and that adding the painful cherry of right and wrong to the sundae of dealing with assholes makes it taste all the more disgusting. A turning point for me & asshole exposure was when I realized that the most unpleasant people were not the ones I should try to make like me. Now I try to get away as quickly and politely as possible, with a minimum of humiliation. This is not always realistic.

Paradoxically, the only way not to be an asshole yourself (& I'm no expert in this) is to leave the door marked "asshole" cracked. Everyone is a jerk sometimes. It may be by accident, or a misunderstanding, or justified, but does that matter when you're on the receiving end? Probably not. But leaving the asshole door cracked is surprisingly hard. A lot of people, even self-hating ones, have a gentle, downtrodden voice inside them, well-meaning and earnest, that says in a seven year-old girl tone that you cannot ever be truly destructive, or bad, or mean, because you are essentially well-meaning and good. You'll hear this voice when someone tells you you did something to hurt them, and it's very sad and victimized and compelling, but you don't want to feed this part of yourself too many cookies. Let's recall that the most vicious characters of history thought of themselves as victims--Hitler was losing the war because of the Jews, Stalin was being mocked by the peasants he starved, etc., ick. If you have a feeling of being terribly wronged, there's a good chance that someone else thinks you're being a tool. Are you? You know, from their point of view? This is when you might have to tell your victim voice to pipe down for a while and apologize--even though you feel bad too. This is hard, hard, hard. I've done it but usually I don't. It's really hard. But it's possible.

Friends. The thing with friends is that as people get older they have less time in general and want to have fun with their friends rather than long, free-form psychotherapy sessions. When you're young and have recently left home you need intense friendships to cover the loss of your family, but after a while your independence kicks in and you no longer need your friends to tell you who you are. This might not feel quite right or fair if it hasn't been this way all along, but eventually you'll want it too. Pretty much everyone gets more involved with their families and jobs as they get older (vs. their defining tribe of friends), it just happens to people at different rates.

Of course you still need companionship, and friends are still friends: you can still love them and admire them and share life events and ask them how to dress and tell them how you really feel, but as you get older you have to do it just once, not over and over, and it's better if you do it while doing something fun, like rollerskating. There's nothing wrong with feeling needy, but constantly imploring your friends for help is the emotional equivalent of asking to sleep on their couch: it's okay now and then but it might be time to get your own apartment, aka boyfriend or a life-coach or mentor or a support group. Besides, a little lightness can be good for a friendship. It cuts down on the friend-dumping.

Hotness. I am not using my hotness in any practical sense; rather, I am using it for general self-esteem, sucking all the juice I can from moments of inner dialogue such as: "I am pleased & uncomfortable to note that that semi-cute, weird biker-guy writing in his journal is looking at me like he wants to tear off my clothes and fuck me right here on the trash-strewn floor endemic to Starbucks. Why can't they sweep the floors? It's disgusting." As for too much using of the hotness, I'm not sure when that happens--maybe if you're getting paid? Then again I don't have a problem with a little willing prostitution as long as your mother doesn't find out. And why would she? Just don't get so caught up in it that you forget to tend the smart and talented part of yourself, and don't use it against other women or you'll end up using it against yourself someday (see below).

Oct 12, 2012; littleshirlybeans Asks:

Hello! It's your admirer again! I met someone the other day who is from Tucson, and, of course, thought of you. I told her that one of my favorite authors was from Tucson and mentioned your name. She didn't know who you were. I was flummoxed! You're bigger than life in my head and surely big in Tucson, right? I guess that's just how life goes. Everything is bigger in my head and there are more good writers than you can shake a pack rat at. This is why I try not to get down about getting published. It will happen or it won't. I'll still be me. Anyway, I was wondering how you felt about aging. I feel young. I'm curious when I'll start to feel old. For my 30th birthday I bought a new dress and went out dancing with friends. It felt great! But now, close to 35, I'm starting to LOOK old. I was stretching the other day and my knees looked old. Old! Really! I'm grossed out that this even crossed my mind. It's more than my knees, but I don't want to give you a laundry list. I've never been super concerned with my appearance, but things just seem to be falling apart recently. So, do you worry about aging? I'd really like to stop this worrying nonsense because it's just not my style.

Stacey answers:

Hi Little S. B. Yes, I worry about aging. My approach is to alternate between panic and denial. I'm worried about death, I'm worried about not writing all the books I want to write or reading everything I'd like to read before I die. I'm worried I'll lose my intelligence and become someone who doesn't understand technology, and I'm worried about losing any hotness I have, because I'm still using it and I'm too insecure not to. The only people who seem to be worse off than me are every other woman I know, practically, chicks in their forties who get a glass of wine in them and are like, "Ugh, I'm such a dried-up old bag." They're usually painfully beautiful, not to mention successful, and I stare at them in shock. Every now and then I'll say, "Really? Is it really so tragic to be hot and 45? What's the problem? Did you really want to fuck everyone? You still could. Go ask that guy! Come on, don't be a pussy."

It's less of a problem if you don't believe, on some crazy-belief level, that getting older is somehow your fault. (Neither is getting fatter, by the way). My advice is to go into aging with a plan that takes into account the fact that it's completely out of your control and will not stop until you die. Once you understand this, you can decide how terrible you really think it is. Do you really want to mourn your disappearing youth, every day, at 35, 36, 37, 47, 57? Or do you want to enjoy what you have? There's an ocean of peer pressure, for lack of a better word, for women to feel bad about themselves. We are self-punishers, we are supposed to be; somewhere in our brains we believe we can have perfect lives if we look perfect, and it's hard to get an exemption from this.

But getting older has perks. You're smarter, you know what to do when people act like assholes, and you have a bed rather than a futon. It's fine and dandy. With the years you do not automatically turn into your mother or some cafeteria lady you looked at with disdain when you were seventeen. Your knees are not revolting--you just thought that once, when you were seventeen and hated your mother and that lady in the weird suit swimming laps in the pool. Back then, you didn't have anything except your youth. You were an idiot, I promise; you had no idea that hating older ladies was going tempt you into hating yourself when you became their age. You had no idea that the bad thoughts of our society had permeated you so thoroughly that you'd started directing them on to other women who would someday be represented by your knees, or that youth itself is full of a howling emptiness that is often really fucking unpleasant. I say wait to mourn losses until you have real losses. Your knees are fine. They're adorable. Someday, if they hurt, they will not be fine. Until then, they are just little and shirleyful. Go take them out to play.

Oct 03, 2012; Just Somebody Asks:

Stacey, you are a genuinely thoughtful person. It is heartening to know such a person is out there and I consider it generous of you to answer these questions. I really enjoy your Q&A pages. I find myself wanting to come up with questions just to ask you to see what you'll say. But a part of me also feels like I shouldn't because it would be like the pesty little brother and probably you have better things to do. I used to be a lonely little brother and my big sister was always on the phone or something and I always felt inadequate and unable to be at her level, and often she would slam the bedroom door shut on me and I was standing there on the shag carpeting staring at a door. I don't blame her because that is what big sisters do, and she had a lot going on in her world. I am sure a pre-teen girl's world is a whole lot more complicated and freaky than a boy's world. At least, on average. Anyway I guess maybe you remind me of my big sister. Always like you know something more than I do, but also in a nice way, like you wouldn't mind helping me learn more too, at least for a while before you need to shut your door. I thank you for that. I think you are nice. I am supposed to ask a question here. My question is, um, what were your favorite children's books? What was the earliest memory you had of reading a book, and what did you like about it? One of my favorites was Harold and the Purple Crayon. I was fascinated how he made worlds out of a crayon and then could climb up onto them, or into them.

Stacey answers:

Dear Somebody,

No, you're nice! Thanks so much for your complicated compliment, and also for taking the time to construct a mental world in which to put me. I have an older sister too, my only sibling, and I used to curl up outside her door and/or sleep on the foot on her bed when I had night terrors. (She feels bad about that now, but I'm just grateful someone was there at all). Actually, there's nothing I'd love more than a pesky-little-brother-friend, but in real life I'm too annoying (needy & supercilious & mean) for this to ever happen. I will stomp on your dreams, Somebody, and believe I'm doing you a favor, so watch where you put them.

The first book I can remember "reading" was Walt Disney's "Cinderella," a Golden Book, which I couldn't really read but memorized. It remains the dominant myth of my life.

Sep 27, 2012; Sean B. Asks:

which is better 'hunger games' or '50 shades of grey'? i have a book report.

Stacey answers:

I've only read The Hunger Games, but if you go to a school where you can write a book report on what I believe to be softcore porn, I say do that--and more power to you! I quite liked the first book of The Hunger Games though. It's scary and a little bit satirical. And why not try your hand at capitalization while you're at it?

Sep 26, 2012; Danny Forever Asks:

I like "The Shining" but I don't understand why Scatman Cruthers travels all the way to the hotel and then he shows up and is immediately killed. Wouldn't it be a better movie if Scatman Cruthers went all Samuel Jackson on Jack Nicholson's ass and made him his bitch? All work and no play makes Jack into Scatman's bitch. Also what kind of a superhero would "Scatman" be? Would he have the power of scat? Would he say, "Put down your weapon or I'll shooba-de-dooba-diddle-bop-a-shimma-shimma-jing-jang!"? I wonder.

Stacey answers:

Well, yes. Have you seen The Simpson's version of The Shining ? It's in one of the Halloween specials and has a great send-up of the axing of Scatman Cruthers. Don't you think it's kind of scary though, how he just walks in and gets his skull split? Where's his power of shining gone off to? Now we know just how much danger Danny is in, because if Scatman can't overcome the bad thing, how can a one little boy? Even if he is aided by another little boy who lives in his mouth.

I love Scatman Cruthers in that movies. He is fucking brilliant. "Say somebody burns some toast..."

Sep 26, 2012; your name R.menjivar G. Asks:

Your Question: I have to write and argumentative essay about the beauty treatment, but I can find any ideas. How should I beging? I have written notes but still nothing happens. Thansk.

Stacey answers:

Begin by using proper grammar and punctuation, my friend. You are not texting your bro, you're writing an actual author and asking her to help you with your homework. What should I make of: "I can find any ideas?" If you can find them, use them.

Sep 23, 2012; T. Gassert Asks:

Recently a close relative died. We grew up playing together and used to be very close. During and after the college years, we grew apart but stayed in touch. We exchanged phone calls and many emails. Then somewhere along the line, she became rabidly political, in the right-wing sense. She sent out emails to numerous recipients where she referred to the president as "The Kenyan" and linked to articles from Breitbart and Glenn Beck's website. We had a few awkward phone conversations in which she would talk about how much she loved listening to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, and how the country is going into the toilet because of Obamacare. I gradually stopped talking to her. When I heard she died, I was sad but a part of me did not care. I feel a lot of guilt over how little I am grieving for her. I feel like I didn't lose my childhood friend, but that her death was an act of mercy after her heart and soul were already destroyed by Pod People aliens from "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." Is there something wrong with me that I mourn so little?

Stacey answers:

Hi T. Gassert. What a hard question! I don't know if there's something wrong with you for mourning so little because I don't know anything about real grief. I've never lost a close relative or a friend except for my grandmother who died at 103--at that point it was difficult to feel anything but lucky for having her around for so long. But fortunately, I do know something about being an asshole. What I've noticed is that when a person is having a hard time, sometimes she will express this by being insufferable. It makes no sense since niceness works better for getting sympathy, but when things are really, really bad, or endless, or hopeless--things that you'd think would make someone cry, or scream, or paint their house crimson, or jump out of an airplane, or quit their job--sometimes they make a person a total unendurable dickwad instead.

I wonder if your friend's dogmatic tirades had anything to do with being ill, and if she couldn't express it otherwise? After all, denial seems to exist in order to mediate between our forward-thinking brains and our knowledge of death. Maybe going off on "The Kenyan" made her feel closer to someone in her life who had already died. Maybe being a right wingnut made her feel closer to her dead father who she unconsciously hoped would escort her from the tunnel of light to a Rush Limbaugh afterlife. Maybe her heart and soul weren't destroyed but just terrified. Maybe she was trying to make everyone hate her so there was less to leave behind. Maybe she was trying to mitigate her own grief and terror at leaving the world by saying it sucked anyway: it's better to leave a country going down the toilet, after all, than to leave a golden age full of wonders, where everything we want to learn or see or hear is right at the tips of our fingers.

That was her outer self, I think. I'm guessing. There was another self? You can always mourn the little girl you knew. She died too. I'm sorry.

Sep 20, 2012; Tom Asks:

Wrong answer. Pirates never die! Arrgh!

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