Diary of a Dancer
Party Castle 8:20 PM Fri May 18 - 1979 Fasting all day so feel much better. Two more sets. I am
the only dancer willing to dance to Baker Street so they keep playing it for
me and it is a tiring song. However all that stretching is good for my muscles
probably. Reading A Time to Keep Silence. Secaire has got me on a
Genevieve’s Apt. off the Park – NYC – Sun 20 May 79
It’s me laughing and joking and eating a whole box of
Entemann’s cookies – and it’s not me. Family. The constant ache of having
so little of myself accepted. It’s like being with people like Usher, really – they
want such a little piece of you. The worst part is, you get so used to the pain
you can’t imagine life without it. Thank God I am usually content to be alone.
Went to the Whitney – gave me some ideas to recast
Memory – unfortunately not ones people will like. I want to make it even
more choppy and episodic– rather than “telling the story –“ which is what
everyone seems to want. But that’s the only way I can get excited about it
– I would like reading it to be like visiting an art gallery.
Queen’s Chapel Rd – Tues 22 May 79
That trip helped. I feel better, more focused. My
new agent submitted Memory to Putnam who loved it but said they had
just published a book with incest theme! Goddamn it all to hell. But their
reaction cheered me up – they didn’t say anything about choppy, episodic, incomprehensible motives, etc. So maybe I’m a real novelist and not just
a bad poet hungry for money. Making plans for The Lives of the Dancers
– a poem for each one. Fun. More fun than novelizing with such a hideous plot
– can’t seem to get my people out of the airport.
Write a haiku BECAUSE THEY’RE EASY. Relief.
Harness UP – ON WEARING A BRA
Two kinds of clothes –
Comfortable and un:
Supportive and –
Fasting again today. So horribly fat right before my period
it would not surprise me to go into labor onstage. Apparently no one else has
noticed I have lost my waist. Have agreed to see Devon in Boston next month.
I am going off birth control so we will see what happens. I feel sure I can get
him into bed. But never telling him he is a father? Can I pull it off? I will try.
Getting past block in my novel by having different characters tell different
parts of the story.
I give up on Pamela Hansford Johnson. Holiday Friend
is The Perfectionists all over again– but not as good.
Party Castle 12:35 AM – Fri 25 May 79 Funny how it all comes together sometimes. Dancing
tonight has been ecstasy – is it the fasting? I am cutting my schedule at the
Plush Palace – the audience here is so much better. They are really quiet
and intense. Probably because it’s so close to the FBI. They get the same
relaxation from watching us that you get from a tank of tropical fish. Except
of course with a sexual frisson that reminds you you’re alive. Read Laura
Hobson’s The Tenth Month – pretty shocked by a doctor who would prescribe Nembutal to a pregnant woman. But that’s the way they were back in the
Now I’m on Highsmith’s Edith’s Diary – which is
fabulous – the review in New York Times was downright immoral. Books
should not be reviewed by the stylistically tone deaf. Reviewer should be
open to many styles – I don’t think that’s too much to ask. The idiot. Went
on stage glittering with body jewelry – big stones. Big tips.
Queen’s Chapel Rd – 28 May 79 – Memorial Day Very staid and old-lady weekend working on the
house. We have a wonderful big backyard with gas grill – A. and I “broke it in” yesterday for shish kebab. Last week’s trip seems months ago already.
Thought about getting pregnant by poor D all day. Am I using him? Is it
wrong? Nah. I am giving him a chance to be more than he is – and he
doesn’t need to know if he can’t handle it. I haven’t even told Avril about this
– and I won’t unless it actually works. With my irritating body I might not be
able to get pregnant just because I want to.
A and I saw Peter Sellers in The Prisoner of Zenda
– just awful. Sun went back to the Unitarian Church – unfortunately it was
a downer. The worst memories of childhood surfaced as we were lectured
on current events as if we were a class of high school students. I would
rather hear about personal fascism than international fascism – that is the
real spiritual problem. Bullying a captive audience seems eminently fascist
to me. We recovered at Ms. K’s Toll House – such a fun place. Spent the
afternoon trying to write a poem about how beauty and finiteness are the
same thing – when we love someone’s beauty it’s their mortality we are
in love with. Not laying a glove on it.
Saw Alien in the eve – the treat of our lives – what
a rollercoaster ride! We both adored it. I’m now officially giving up on
reviewers – the Washington Post said it wasn’t as good as Star Wars.
What is wrong with people!!! Apparently reviewers have to pass some
sort of idiocy test.
The “cure” was completed when I crawled into bed with Bloomsbury Portraits. Fabulous people. These are the ones my father
refers to as the “sexual degenerates.” I adore their interior decorating.
Sex lives not so much. Going to ask Maureen to make me a dining room mural.
By sheer good luck I don’t work till Wed. So I get a
real rest. That feeling of pressure negatively impacts my work. Slept
twelve whole hours – which means I may be up half the night – but I
don’t mind if it’s productive. I especially like walking the dogs in the
middle of the night so I can ignore the leash law. They are so good
about voice command.
2pm 30 May 79
To my surprise novel goes well. Finished first
bloodletting scene. Reading Flannery O’Connor’s The Habit of Being –
love it. Dreading work tonight – not ready to get back.
1:15 AM 31 May 79
Hard night. Feel like I have had some protective
coating scraped off my eyes and I can see everybody’s pain. Everyone
is in pain. Not pleasant.
Plush Palace Fri night 1 June 79 7:50 PM
Had to stop at dance store to buy fishnet Danskins
on my way to work. (Kristi darns hers but I’m too lazy). Horrible traffic jam
coming and going – then they were out of the ones with the seams which
are the only kind that properly shape the buttocks. So I bought a black pair.
They only look good close-up. So I arrived in an automatic bad mood – put
on my black costume with the little mirrors. I’ll go to the Maryland Danskin’s
tomorrow. Feel better after a couple of bourbons. I can see how dancers
get into the booze not to mention the bute. I am trying to do too much.
Working, fasting, writing the Great American Novel
(it’s turning into the Great Canadian Novel) – something’s got to give.
Two bagels, two bourbons, then I’m cutting myself off. Zachary coming in
tonight. I feel I’ve had it with the purely recreational sex (with quarrelsome underpinnings) that is all he has to offer. At least I have a good excuse to turn him down till June 22 – I’m booked solid.
Idly reading George Weinberg’s Self-Creation. Ho hum.
Working with Kristi tonight. She has the most perfect
body I have ever seen but is totally neurotic about it. She can’t appreciate
it herself. I speak to her in monosyllables because I don’t want to get sucked
into her game of “How can we improve me” that she lays on other dancers.
She’s a “yes, but”, never pleased with anything. Fatima came in hawking
her used makeup. She is so bizarre. Claims she needs to sell everything
for an “important medical operation.” Won’t say what it is – she probably
just wants to ruin her breasts as is the fashion lately. Maggie’s breasts
are hard as stone. She’s destroyed her own body. The air is heavy
with female paranoia. Specific personal worries degenerate at a moment’s
notice into far-flung government conspiracies.
Nervous about upcoming visit with D – at least
twice a day I decide not to go. If he knows me better than I think he may
guess what I’m up to.
8:30 PM Sat 2 June 79
Rescued today – got four nights work instead of a
possible six. Thank God. Bought wonderful music on the way to work at
discount store – all Tchaikovsky’s orchestral music and Purcell’s Fairy Queen. Therapeutic listening after boogy-oogy-oogy.
My parents finished Memory – want to know who Oz
is based on. Uh oh. That rattled me. Should I tell? Decided not to and feel
like a coward. But they wouldn’t believe me any way and that would be way
too painful. They translate any vulnerability or sharing into “no wonder you’re
D’s most recent letter suggested canceling our date
– he’s about to be ordained and must “purify”. He wants to escape from
his past – which I’m a part of. Get it? He knows me so well he psychically
intuited where I’m at, or more likely he inhaled a whiff of neediness and we
can’t have that. He must be the needy one.
Zachary and I went out to breakfast after work last night.
For an “artist” (I use this term very loosely) he has less intuition than a stone.
His compliments are so over the top I am filled with disgust but he doesn’t
appear to notice. Had a horrible insight I now can’t get rid of. I am his Devon
– the Great White Whale. Horrors! Will he now try to get pregnant by me?
Thank God, the sexes AREN’T the same.
Feeling a little slowed up by O’Connor’s prejudices in
Habit. She seems too content to be a creature of her era. Tried to read
Caroline Gordon because of friendship with F – but not my cup of cappuccino.
She is Edith Wharton strained painfully through Somerset Maugham. Instead
I am branching into a self-help jag – brought a book tonight called The Gift
of Grief. Is this a gift anybody wants?
Avril and I trying Silver Spring Unitarians tomorrow.
Party Castle Tues 5 June 79 – 12:35 AM
Devon ordained Sunday. I blew up under all the pressure yesterday – sobbed and sobbed. Avril said she would go out, get a part time
job and just give me the money. I am so jealous of her for being a full-time
student I guess. What an idiot. I apologized. I am experimenting with giving
up writing. Why force myself to do it? I just won’t do it – enjoy life and job at
least for awhile – till I have to write. We’ll see when that is. Trying to read
bio of HP Lovecraft. There’s an object lesson wrapped around a cautionary
Thurs 7 June 79 2:40 PM
Foolishly agreed to go to the Belmont Stakes with Don,
my patent lawyer who is now a regular at the Castle. (He has forgiven
me for my hair.) Now I want to back out. He says we can have separate
rooms, he’ll pay for everything, etc – he is going up with a whole party of
people. I can’t believe I am going to get into this whole ordeal of having to
get to know someone again. What would he do if I said absolutely
nothing about myself? He doesn’t even know I’m a writer, for example. And
if I go to Belmont, can’t see Devon. It’s all too stupid – have to think of an excuse
to get out of this. If I ruin him as a big tipper what a dope I am. I guess this
means I have gone through the whole dating thing and emerged out
the other side. Ready for the next stage – whatever that is. Invited again to
present at the Writer’s Conference at Coltsville. Shall I tell them I’ve given up on
Castle – 11 PM – Thurs. 15 June 79
Don came in wearing tennis whites (purple in the
black light) complete with racket like a Noel Coward character. I told him
I was emotionally involved with someone else and just couldn’t go. He just
sort of nodded and left without getting a drink – or tipping me – so he probably
came in only to see me. Relief. Freedom beats money any day. I secretly
hope he never comes in again. I will live without the tips. I applied for a
MasterCard – hoping that will give me a backup way to manage emergencies. Dramatic scene with Jordana tonight – she came in sobbing – her boyfriend
wants her to marry him and go to Florida and she doesn’t know what to do.
I said what I always say, take the risk. So she quit. Managers are furious
Queens Chapel Rd – Sun 17 June 79 Exhausting weekend at seminar. I was supposed to
give a reading from Blood Memory. I was a nervous wreck beforehand,
sweating, had to switch my breathing to manual – the works. It went fine.
There was so much silence and building tension – then at the end, the
release was cathartic. Bravos. That was the good part of the conference.
The classes were the bad part.
Students disappointed that I’ve had only one book
published and I’m still poor – they feel I might not be a “real” writer and I
don’t blame them. Lamely told them about switching agents. I could have
used some more stage presence or at least some bald-faced lies. My lack
of confidence was broadcast far and wide. Having my period. Damn.
Starlight – Sat night – 23 June 79 What a week! I have discussed it with Avril in depth
but I still don’t understand it – I’ll just write it out and see what happens. Got
a letter from Toss Sheffield of all people – my blood-mate from high school – a wonderful letter. He read my poem in the Alumni Directory and noted I was
“divorced”. (Of course, technically I’m still just separated because of Bruce’s malfeasance.) Toss is working with Ralph Nader on Three Mile Island in DC all summer and wants to see me. The rest of the time he is a prizewinning
journalist studying law in Kentucky. Woo hoo!
Timing could not be better – my restlessness desperately
seeks somebody new – someone I don’t have to explain my childhood,
schooling and family to. The Boy Next Door! At the very least I could use
him as a cat o’nine tails on Devon (which he royally deserves). Last Wed
night Devon showed up in the middle of the night on his way out to California.
More push me – pull you. Very unsatisfying night as we finger each other
gingerly like priceless objects pre-smashed, badly glued and inexpertly set. He
invited me out to Calif. in Sept. Long wait, big ticket, which is the story of Any
Girlfriend of Devon’s Life. Might be able to manage if I get that MasterCard.
On the other hand said our parents were “hoping we’d get together” which is
GiGi came in again. She obviously misses us. Said she
saw Buck the other day and he spoke of me fondly. There’s a load off my
mind. Leave ‘em sighing, that’s my motto.
Toss Sheffield put the phone number of the house
where he’s staying in his letter – I’ll call him tonight around ten. Wait till he finds
out what I do for a living. Or I might not tell him. It all depends on him.
He said he missed me at our tenth reunion – only went
because he thought I’d be there! I didn’t go because I didn’t want to “explain
my life” – and if I tell him, there’s a possibility everyone might know. Can I
handle that much exposure?
Struggling to read Joan Didion’s Slouching Toward
Bethlehem but she is pretty depressing. Read Millheiser’s The Mirror.
Absolutely stank. What was Putnam thinking of to choose that novel over
mine? Shows there’s a factor here I don’t understand. Wish I was a
multizillionaire with my own publishing co.
Castle 26 June – Tues – 10:30 PM How to describe my ecstatic dinner with Toss? He
opened himself up to me like a book. “Take. Read”. He loves the universe
but in a healthy way – vibrates to it and wants to be overwhelmed, then
empowered by it. Just like me! He explores the DC area with the zest of
one “learning” a foreign country – touchingly amazed that one eats the
whole of a fried crab – “Even the eyebrows!”
We discussed everything – politics, theology, my
marriage – his parents’ divorce – his horrifyingly determined Catholic virgin
of a high-maintenance girlfriend – he chose her because she reminds him
of his grandmother. And he admits it!
This is all scary but I feel I must ride with it. He is so
intelligent – such a relief to talk to someone who knows the difference
between a prodigal and a prodigy and can tell a scherzo from a schizo.
He showed up for dinner at Queens Chapel Road,
driving an immaculate yellow Rabbit. I was frightened to so much as look
out the window – I said to Avril – “Tell me what he’s like.” She said, He’s
exactly the same.
And he was. Gorgeous poet’s face (Rupert Brooke)
long blonde hair – wrestler’s body – maybe a little too thin. (He’s had a
rough hardworking year of self-denial following Bad Relationship.) He
wore a white cotton sweater and what looked to be the same corduroy
pants he wore throughout high school. I wore tight white capris and my
pink gauze blouse. He noticed my body immediately – how hard and
slender – asked if I was a runner. I told him my doctor says I have a
runner’s heart – but no, I’m a walker. I like taking my time to see all
there is to see.
We had swordfish prepared on my new gas grill.
We responded to each other in exactly the same way we did right before
he left for college – his eyes feasting all over me – so humbling and
overwhelming to realize someone loved me so deeply at such a painful
period of my life. We marked each other in every meaning of the verb. I feel chastened and grateful to have such an effect on another person. We
have so many similarities – both listened to Miss Goggins as children!
We can each quote whole skits, tossing back bourbon in brandy snifters.
As soon as I was drunk enough I declaimed my poem about how we spent
Class Day in the treehouse.
He didn’t remember the frickin’ treehouse! The
memories of people who don’t keep diaries are appallingly patchy. I showed
him the trunk under my bed – decorated with flowers and my childish
handwriting – and gave him the diary that described those nights!
He was open mouthed; he stared at me as if I were a witch.
Who knew diaries can come in so handily to resurrect the dead? He told me
I am a fabulous writer and should never give up. That the purpose of
existence is to find what you were born to do and do it. No one else in my
life talks like this!
There was no lingering hostility over our unfortunate
parting – our fundamentally dishonest Dear John – Dear Jane letters. No
game playing – none of that. I can’t even recall who touched who first –
my guess is we lunged at each other – it must have been mutual.
Well, if I’m a witch, he’s a knight in shining armor.
Only he can rescue me from this hellish situation I’ve fallen in with Devon –
with all of them. That he could make love to me that way and not want to
see me till Sept has been playing tricks with my mind. Devon uses me to
flagellate himself and I can be so much more than that.
It’s definitely fun to talk to someone who has
exactly the same background as me – someone who reads and gets
all my references. I was beginning to feel like an exotic (about to become
extinct) rarity. He wants to date me solidly the whole time he’s here –
(he leaves in Sept – that mystic date). Fri we’re going out – and
probably Sun and the fourth of July. He says he’s never gotten over me,
never loved anyone else the way he loved me. He wants me to come
to his family’s place in the Berkshires in August – where I last went at
18 years old – why not say yes? I turn down work joyously while the
managers gnash their teeth. It’s only money.