a good friend of mine was recently fired and is pressing charges on the grounds of racial discrimination. i wrote a character reference letter and had it notarized this afternoon at the bank where my mother works. the notary asked me, "which daughter are you, the one in school or the one moving?" my younger sister is a sophomore in college and my older sister left for toulouse two days ago, so i told the woman, "i am the daughter between school and france." the distance between school and france, for anyone who is curious to know, is turbulent and stressful and it doesn't pay very well and it causes tension headaches. i am twenty-three years old and living with my parents and i am between things, trying to "stay positive" (whatever that means) by always pouring another glass when mine looks to be approaching the half-empty point and by laughing really hard at myself. my father (story: works as a filer, goes through a series of promotions over a 15 year period, then quits and starts his own business, becomes his previous employer's competitor, and starts dabbling in the stock market for the good ol' fashioned heck of it) urges me to Get My Foot in the Door and to Climb the Ladder. my mother (story: works as a secretary, quits due to sexual harassment gone too far, stays at home and raises 3 kids for 10 years, then works part-time in retail, now full-time at the bank) urges me to remember to make my bed after i roll out of it. so, i am also between an unmade bed and being CEO of a fortune 500 company, which sounds like sexual harassment turned foot-in-the-door, but it's not.
If This Is A Woman is borrowed from the original title of Primo Levi's Survival in Auschwitz, which is If This Is A Man. i read his memoir in 2006 as a freshman in college for a "philosophy of the holocaust" course taught by one of the most spectacular women i have ever known. Levi writes, "Sooner or later in life everyone discovers that perfect happiness is unrealizable, but there are few who pause to consider the antithesis: that perfect unhappiness is equally unattainable. The obstacles preventing the realization of both these extreme states are of the same nature: they derive from our human condition which is opposed to everything infinite" (SiA, p. 19). Levi was a chemist prior to deportation and he documents his experience of the camps as though it were an involuntary study of the human condition, of what inhumanities a man can withstand before he is no longer a man as such. he notes the inhumanity in humanity, bears witness to it. he attributes his survival to chance rather than to a triumph of the human spirit. i am certainly not comparing my current life to Primo Levi's experience, nor am i comparing a minnesotan suburb to a concentration camp. i hardly know what i am doing. i am between things, after all. the link cited above is to an article published in the atlantic by mona simpson; she admires Levi for portraying a "normal man's view of hell" and for never narrating in heroic slant. so, while i'm between things, this will be my memoir. and perhaps i can portray a normal woman's view of hell.