Category: life writing

Perspective | My daughter asked me to stop writing about motherhood. Here’s why I can’t do that.:

Writer and Lawyer Christie Tate suffered the wrath of the social media mob when her article was originally published. Sadly, most of the angry people missed the point behind the provocative headline – that in telling stories that include other people, you have to make and respect one another’s boundaries.

…my plan is to chart a middle course, where together we negotiate the boundaries of the stories I write and the images I include. This will entail hard conversations and compromises. But I prefer the hard work of charting the middle course to giving up altogether — an impulse that comes, in part, from the cultural pressure for mothers to be endlessly self-sacrificing on behalf of their children. As a mother, I’m not supposed to do anything that upsets my children or that makes them uncomfortable, certainly not for something as culturally devalued as my own creative labor.

Writer Christine Organ has described how “we seem to be creating this unrealistic image of the mother as all-giving, all-knowing, selfless, superhuman who will gladly give up the last piece of apple pie to please her lip-smacking, big-eyed child.” Surely, there’s a way to cut the pie so that I can write about motherhood in a way that takes into account my daughter’s feelings and respects her boundaries. But if I simply cordoned off motherhood as a forbidden subject for my writing, we would never know.

My daughter didn’t ask to have a writer for a mother, but that’s who I am. Amputating parts of my experience feels as abusive to our relationship as writing about her without any consideration for her feelings and privacy.

For now, we have agreed that I will not submit a picture for a publication without her permission and that she has absolute veto rights on any image of herself. As for content, I have agreed to describe to her what I’m writing about, in advance of publication, and to keep the facts that involve her to a minimum. I have not yet promised that she can edit my work, but we acknowledged that is a future possibility. She also requested that instead of using her name, I call her by her self-selected pseudonym, Roshelle…

Digital Human: Series 17, Ep 4 – Cameo

BBC Radio 4 – Four Thought, Other People’s Stories:

Lunchtime listen for you guys, Dr Anna Derrig was on our show this week, but she goes in depth into the ethics of life writing in this episode of Four Thought. Well worth a listen if you’re going to write your life story.

Digital Human: Series 17, Ep 4 – Cameo

Buried in My Wrong Body by Christie O. Tate:

Age thirteen. At an audition downtown in a studio with floor to ceiling windows I empty out my heart at the barre and during center exercises, hoping for a spot in Boston Ballet’s summer workshop. When my name isn’t called, I cry in a too-bright dressing room that smells of sweaty bodies and Diet Coke. I’m naked and still sobbing when a woman with a dancer’s bun and street shoes sticks her head in to offer those of us not selected a chance to speak to the director. It’s a chance to learn what we should work on. A chance to strengthen our audition for next year.

I dress quickly and wipe my face with a paper towel. In the studio, the director pulls out my audition card. It’s blank as an asylum wall. Not a single box is checked. Not a single note scribbled. There’s nothing written on it but the number they assigned me at check-in. He flips it over and there are two letters written in pencil: “OW.” Ah, he says. We don’t process applications for dancers who are overweight.

My universe collapses under the weight of those two letters. Ballet is nothing more than a shimmering illusion. It’s just like home and all the other places where my body is Too Big, where I Don’t Fit In, where There’s No Place For Me.

None of it belongs to me anymore.

Digital Human: Series 17, Ep 4 – Cameo