Archive for March 18th, 2008

How Sexy is Writing?

This is a topic our entire writing group tackled. Here is my take. It’s about a time in my life, over 20 years ago, where I was confident, arrogant, vulnerable, young and writing!

How Sexy is Writing? 

I went to elementary school in Boston during the early 70’s. Integration was happening and free meals were part of the education plan. Feeding bellies was as important as feeding minds. It was a huge transition when my mother married up the socioeconomic ladder landing us a home in Harvard, MA. We went to a school where kids of color stood out like shooting stars in a night sky.  

By senior year I was one of the 2% not attending college despite being an honor roll student. Dr. Stocking, my English teacher had a sit-down talk, his bow tie was at eye level. He pressured me to go to college as soon as possible, I’m sure, at the insistence of the administration. But there was no talking cure for me. I couldn’t afford to go. I was a street-smart girl. I had another plan. I had arranged to start an internship at The Harvard Post newspaper the Monday after my graduation.

How sexy is it to have a press pass, cover town meetings and work for the local paper at eighteen? How sexy is desire when appetite is large enough to eat shyness? I had to make scripts for myself before talking on the telephone and would not let anyone in the office hear me speak on the phone. I stored pockets of courage and emptied them as needed, battling my fears directly to discover I could maneuver around them in order to chase my dreams.


I was fearful, socially inept and able to hide behind long bangs, glasses, a notebook and a pen. I walked to meetings when I didn’t have a car. I spent hours on short news briefs where I didn’t get a byline. I called hospitals to find out the condition of a man who had crashed in a small plane. I was amazed to get through to the nurses’ station because I was that thing called the press who represented the public’s right to know.



I learned to wield an exacto knife with precision, cutting away excess paper so that stories, once typeset and waxed could be adhered to what looked like a room of slanted drafting tables. All 16, 20 or 24 pages of the paper would be laid out across the room. There were news stories, an illustration over the editorial, letters, “soft news,” profiles and photos of children at the Apple Blossom Festival.


 I was an intern who became a feature writer, reviewer, columnist and reporter. Going back to the status of student would be a demotion. I loved watching the publisher’s baby crawl the floor eating crumbs while her mother talked to the editor.



The stipend I received was low so I worked a second full-time job to save for college and pay the bills taking line ads over the phone for the classified section of a large regional paper. At the small weekly, I was a woman honing her craft.


A full year after graduation, the Class of 1985, my class, started trickling back to town from college. My editor asked if I could cover the next classes’ commencement for the paper. So, with a task and a title this professional was heading to the ceremony of the Class of 1986 with credentials.


  I wore a designer blue silk “work” shirt borrowed from my mother. It had thick gold buttons and cuffed arms hugging my wrists tight, a tailored skirt with a slit, professional but sexy four inch heals that brought me to a stunning six feet. My long brown hair was up, tight, held by a pen and long curled tendrils fell down, softening my face. I was a knockout with a notebook.

I was the press, a reporter, an adult with a job, story and assignment. I drove to the graduation in a yellow Datsun to the parking lot, pulled out my purse, pen and notebook and headed to the gym. I was a little late and a lot excited. I waved to old friends, too busy to stop and chat. I envisioned walking through that auditorium like a brainy model on a runway, walking past row after row of peers on bleacher seats as I headed to the front row reserved for the superintendent, the principal, the selectmen, fire and police chiefs and of course, the press.

Only three stairs stood between me and my fantasy. I caught my heel on the first one. I fell hard breaking one, cutting a leg which left a blood trail down my shredded nylons. The pinstriped tight slit skirt became slutty as the rip reached up my thigh. The top button of the shirt didn’t survive the fall which was unfortunate as the new low cut revealed a filthy old bra so large it could have doubled as a life jacket or bullet-proof vest.

I didn’t have time to take the nylons off, to remove the blood from my scratched leg and so I entered the auditorium looking like a polio survivor, one leg shorter than the next, hobbling. My hair was disheveled and I was holding the back of my shirt to keep it from revealing my bra and my inability to escape my poor beginning in life. I was far too dispirited to notice any pain. At least I still had my pen and notebook. Disheveled, dirty, hobbling and trying too hard – that was me. I could almost hear a thousand people sigh collectively and whisper, “She hasn’t changed a bit.”


How sexy is writing? Sexy enough that I knew, at nineteen, that I couldn’t go home or ask someone to fill in for me. There was a story, a deadline and a reporter on duty. I knew where I had to be and took my seat in the front row. As soon as my pen hit the paper, I was her, the capable girl, the smart one, dedicated and writing.



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