# of literary mags submitted to: 2
# of flash fiction stories written: 1
Maybe it’s all my recent work with Burlesque Press combined with the Twisted Knickers performance I saw a few weeks ago in DC, but lately I’ve been joking around about becoming a burlesque dancer and brainstorming possible names. (Bunny VonTassel, perhaps?)
Of course, the likelihood that I would actually become a burlesque dancer is slim. This is just like the times I entertained the notion of joining the roller derby, or the DC Ladies Arm Wrestling (DCLAW) league. (I also came up with some ideas for roller derby/arm wrestling names – Roxie Heartless and Zsa Zsa Gore.) And don’t even get me started on my fantasy of becoming a cool girl drummer for a punk band… I think that ship has sailed.
Anyway, I’ll probably never join the roller derby because I’m a wimp and would end up breaking all of my bones. I’ll probably never become an arm wrestler because I’m about a hundred pounds underweight. (Although this does not stop me from challenging people to arm-wrestling competitions at inappropriate times, such when I arm-wrestled the fifty-year-old Spanish teacher at the faculty good-bye luncheon last year.)
In the same way, I’m probably not going to become a burlesque dancer because I don’t have the balls (or is it ovaries in this case?) to stand on a stage in nothing but some (very) skimpy underwear.
The question then is, why do I have this desire to be Bunny VonTassel or Roxie Heartless? Is it the fishnet stockings and crazy costume? Is it the awesome alter-ego with a sexy-tough style? Is it the chance to perform for a cheering audience? Yes, it’s all of that. But it’s something else, too.
No matter their size or shape or age, these women are confident and secure in their bodies, and that’s what makes them so cool. Burlesque dancers are saying to the world, hey, my body’s not perfect, but I’m proud of it. Roller derby girls are saying, hey, I don’t care about a wipe-out — I’ll still be sexy with missing teeth. And lady arm-wrestlers are saying, hey, I don’t care what you think about me because I could squash you like a bug.
That’s sort of the opposite of what I say to the world.
I’m always apologizing about my writing. Just the other day the director of Burlesque Press asked me to send her some creative pieces for her blog, so I emailed her a few poems with the disclaimer, “they’re kind of weird. I understand if you don’t want to use them.”
And Sergey, my Ukrainian student, has been asking if he can read my stories, and I send them to him with the same warnings: “you might not like them – if you don’t, it’s OK.”
Whenever people ask me what I do, I hedge. “All sorts of things,” I say. I tell them that I write math curriculum or that I Skype-tutor Ukrainians or that I’m taking a break from my real-life as a math teacher. I’m always a little embarrassed to tell them I’m a “writer” – I didn’t even admit to this until very recently. Now, when I do tell people I’m a writer, and they ask the inevitable, “oh, are you published?” I wave my hand and say sheepishly, “just some stories in a few literary magazines, nothing you’ve heard of.”
I always wish that I had something to show for myself. A glossy new novel on the shelves of Barnes & Noble. A prestigious award and an interview in People magazine. It’s like I’m saying to the world, “sorry, I’m not a very good writer – can we talk about something else?”
I guess I need to be more like a burlesque dancer. I need to show off to the world and say: here’s my writing! It’s not perfect, but I’m proud of it. I need to be like the roller derby girls and not care if I wipe out. I need to be like the lady arm-wrestlers and smash all of my doubts.
Maybe what I need is an alter-ego. I need to be Jackie Kerosmack, the tough-talking, fishnet-wearing broad who reveals herself through writing and doesn’t care what anyone thinks. She’s cool and confident, and she never apologizes for being a writer.
I may never be a derby girl or a burlesque dancer, but I think I’ve got what it takes to be Jackie Kerosmack
What’s your writing alter-ego? Or your best burlesque/derby name?