21. Our First Language

April 2nd 2020, Thursday

Dear Blog,

It is comforting to read words from other writers, to feel less alone in the journey. I have been reading a new book by Chuck Palahniuk called Consider This, arguably one of the best books I’ve read this year so far.

He wrote a heartbreaking story of how he realized the Russian tailor at a local Brooks Brothers store gave him such a sense of comfort that was blissful beyond his understanding, only to recognize later that he reminded him of his late mother who would always fix clothes for her children.

To repeat: your body is a recording device is more effective than your mind.

After I recognized the magic of the fitting room, it seemed less powerful. The tailor went back to being a guy with a cloth tape measure looped over his shoulders. From here my brain took over. The reason I’d always avoided buying clothes, even after I could afford to shop at places like Brooks Brothers and Barneys, was because it felt like an insult to wear anything nicer than what our mother could sew. Late nights, she’d baste and hem, calling a kid upstairs to test the size of a waistband. But despite her efforts – one night she fainted from heatstroke and our father found her sprawled between the ironing board and the Singer sewing machine – our clothes looked homemade. The fabric has been on sale because it was garish. The buttons had been recycled from a wedding gown or whatever. But to wear anything nicer we risked hurting her feelings.

So my clothes, even after my success, came through thrift stores.

So did my language. Store-bought clothes and ten-dollar words felt pretentious and show-offy so we bought what we could find secondhand, my siblings and I, and we talked about the weather.

And realizing that autopilot tendency set me free. My mother was dead. I could dress up a little. My ideas could grow because my vocabulary could.

So if you were my students, I’d tell you to listen to your body as you write. Take note how your hand knows how much coffee is left by the weight of the cup. Tell your stories not simply through your readers’ eyes and minds, but through their skin, their noses, their guts, the bottoms of their feet.

— Excerpt from “Consider This” by Chuck Palahniuk

Not to get into too much details, but I had a similar upbringing like his, which means I still feel guilty when I buy new clothes.

Language is not our first language

— Tom Spanbauer

Even though his story is meant to stress the importance of tuning in to your body as well as using physical sensations to create reality, it does hit too close to home for me. Perhaps I would write about it in the future. For now, let’s call it a night.

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