Today, Kelsy is ill (send get-well thoughts her way!), so Annie is discussing poet and all-around sassy lady Dorothy Parker with none other than herself, at age 16.
Annie: Well! Look who it is!
16-Year-Old-Annie: Whoa. I got sort of pretty!
Annie: Yeah, well. Enjoy that perfect skin while it lasts. BECAUSE IT WON’T.
16-Year-Old-Annie: Red is still our preferred color, I guess?
Annie: Always and forever, babe. In more ways than one! Anyway, let’s kick things off. Usually I like to start these things by talking about how I discovered them, but since I’m talking to YOU, I’ll let you explain how you came to know and love Dorothy Parker.
16-Year-Old-Annie: Wait, you can tell me some future things, right?
Annie: Well. I can give you hints, I guess, but I feel like this raises a lot of moral and ethical questions that don’t pertain to FEMINISM and POETRY. But okay, what’s up?
16-Year-Old-Annie: This is relevant! Who the hell has my copy of The Portable Dorothy Parker!??
Annie: Ha. I can’t possibly begin to answer that question in an ethical, privacy-protecting manner, so I will just tell you that you lent it to your best friend recently, and he’ll give it back to you in a few years, oh and also by the way you two will date in the future and – oh, man, never mind. LIFE IS FUNNY! Anyway, you can probably see that you still have ADHD well into adulthood. So, where were you when you discovered Dorothy Parker?
16-Year-Old-Annie: Well, I can’t remember. Well, actually, I can. I was in the library at Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School where I used to go to skip Algebra II and read poetry.
Annie: You fancy yourself a poet?
16-Year-Old-Annie: Are you kidding me? I opened my journal from freshman year the other day and it was literally the worst thing I have ever seen.
Annie: Man, I am just itching to tell you your career trajectory! (You don’t become a poet, that’s for sure!)
16-Year-Old-Annie: I get to live in the Middle East, right?
Annie: Well, yes.
Annie: But you don’t join the foreign service and you definitely aren’t the forerunner of the Middle East Peace Process (unlike Baba Hosni), though you do deconstruct it a lot of the time!
16-Year-Old-Annie: Deconstruct it?
Annie: Oh, never mind. THE ISSUE AT HAND, PLEASE.
16-Year-Old-Annie: Yeah, well I just found it in the poetry section of the library. It was right next to Edna St. Vincent Millay, who I found and loved after I was reading Ariel, because Sylvia Plath is my favorite writer.
Annie: Oh I am AWARE. And you were blown away by this clever woman, right?
16-Year-Old-Annie: This poem “Résumé” is what blew my mind. I read it and was just, Yes:
Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.
Annie: Oh man. I forgot how morbid you were. And yet you liked knitting and Hello Kitty and Lizzie McGuire so much! The mind boggles. But yes, I will say that I know this poem by heart and like to recite it to myself with a wry smile on particularly crappy days. I just think her tongue-in-cheek treatment of that, as that RENOWNED WIT, is just the best thing and has probably somehow subconsciously seeped its way into my own sense of humor. I also find, and likely you do too, Ms. Popular, that I really relate to Ms. Parker’s role as a sort of leader in this group of clever, saucy writers. Also she helped found The New Yorker, which we have been reading since we were nine years old, and was blacklisted in Hollywood for being a leftist.
16-Year-Old-Annie: Yeah, well, whatever. I just feel like she Gets It, you know? Life is so sucky but Death is too complicated! But also her poems about love are really on-point. Hey, do you have a boyfriend?
Annie: Oh my god, 16-Year-Old-Me on LOVE. HOO BOY! Let me counter that question with my favorite line of poetry, like, ever, from “A Fairly Sad Tale”: “A heart in half is chaste, archaic/ but mine resembles a mosaic.” I like that line so much that I put it on my Tumblr!
16-Year-Old-Annie: What’s a Tumblr?
Annie: It’s like LiveJournal but better. If I recall correctly, “A Fairly Sad Tale” was one of your favorite poems, too. Let’s review and discuss:
I think that I shall never know
Why I am thus, and I am so.
Around me, other girls inspire
In men the rush and roar of fire,
The sweet transparency of glass,
The tenderness of April grass,
The durability of granite;
But me- I don’t know how to plan it.
The lads I’ve met in Cupid’s deadlock
Were- shall we say?- born out of wedlock.
They broke my heart, they stilled my song,
And said they had to run along,
Explaining, so to sop my tears,
First came their parents or careers.
But ever does experience
Deny me wisdom, calm, and sense!
Though she’s a fool who seeks to capture
The twenty-first fine, careless rapture,
I must go on, till ends my rope,
Who from my birth was cursed with hope.
A heart in half is chaste, archaic;
But mine resembles a mosaic-
The thing’s become ridiculous!
Why am I so? Why am I thus?
16-Year-Old-Annie: No but really. Why don’t boys like me?
Annie: Ah! The gripes of a teen in the Friend Zone! I just want you to know that the dude you’re pining for right now is a compulsive liar and will later end up in the porn industry in Prague. Anyway, I guess I like this poem, and most all of Dorothy’s poems, in fact, because it’s cynical without being hard-hearted. Dorothy Parker’s long had this reputation of being brash and sharp-tongued, which is one reason why we liked her so much, both now and then, but what’s great is this vulnerability she also has.
16-Year-Old-Annie: Kind of this big old statement of, “You hurt me, but who gives a crap!”
Annie: Oh my gosh, your language is so much better than mine. I want to implore you not to curse like a sailor, although you certainly will. Also, I just want to point out that reading Dorothy Parker in the Age of the Internet Overshare and Internet Snark is a total trip. Because she does overshare, about her feelings and sadness, and then almost undermines that by her bitchy undertones. And oh my god, I just love it. Also I just want to say that I’m glad you got your Internet Oversharing woes over at an early age, because, well, it’s just good, that’s all.
16-Year-Old-Annie: How about one more poem? I have to go to A Cappella rehearsal and then I have a Model UN meeting.
Annie: Fine. You choose.
16-Year-Old-Annie: How about “Men”?
Annie: Oh my god. There are just fundamental things about your persona that cannot and will not change and that frightens me. Carry on!
16-Year-Old-Annie: Here we go:
They hail you as their morning star
Because you are the way you are.
If you return the sentiment,
They’ll try to make you different;
And once they have you, safe and sound,
They want to change you all around.
Your moods and ways they put a curse on;
They’d make of you another person.
They cannot let you go your gait;
They influence and educate.
They’d alter all that they admired.
They make me sick, they make me tired.
Annie: What point are we trying to make? I really need the blogosphere to know that I don’t want to castrate everyone.
16-Year-Old-Annie: Well, I’m like Dorothy! I’m just sick and tired of men! Also we are similar because we both were romantically involved with gay men.
Annie: Wait a few more years before you say that. Also I would hardly call holding hands with a closet-case for a month “romantically involved”, but I digress! We really need to close with another poem. We need to speak of Dorothy’s dazzling wit! The Algonquin round-tables!
16-Year-Old-Annie: Her three marriages? Her alcoholism?
Annie: Good God. I forgot you don’t drink yet. Touché! Let’s close with the classic “News Item”: “Men seldom make passes/ At girls who wear glasses.”
16-Year-Old-Annie: Well, is that true? Don’t think I didn’t notice your new specs.
Annie: No, but it is true that people make a lot of dumb Harry Potter jokes when really you were just going for the Ruth Madoff look.
16-Year-Old-Annie: One more question. Did you cut your hair to look like Dorothy Parker’s?
Annie: Not consciously, no. I actually did it to look like Anna Karina. But most awesome women have bangs, which reminds me to tell you not to grow yours out, because it will look stupid.
16-Year-Old-Annie: Mom thinks I should!
Annie: Mom is rarely wrong, except in matters of your hair. Trust.