In my very early 20s, an acquaintance started to call me Little Dorothy Parker. He was older, sort of effete and well read, and I have never liked him since. He meant it as a compliment, but I was insulted. Why did he single me out from the rest of the stupid girls I ran with and say that? We all dressed the same way, talked the same way, dated the same kinds of boys. We were all slight variations of the next girl. Why me? How dare he?
At the time, I gave him my signature catchphrase of "You don't know me," and felt that he was too sure of himself, his literary intelligence. He doesn't know her and he doesn't know me and he's a fucking idiot. I did not want my youthful dissipations to be compared to what I saw as her sadeyed alcoholic failures, her squandering of her life and skills and talents, a gathering up of all of the good things in life and throwing them away with both hands. The photos of her looked like crime scene shots, the heavy, veiled eyes and deep circles under them, the resigned hands cradling her face, forever surprised at what had happened to her.
The real reason I was angry was because I felt he had opened a door in my chest and looked inside. I thought he was right. I felt exposed. I couldn't believe that he had seen it so quickly. He had read some things I had posted online on an old journal, talked with me a few times. My defensive anger was telling. Most people would think it was cool or romantic, might like the characterization of themselves as a wavering woman with a rapier mouth. You can afford that kind of daydream when it's only a daydream.
I've always struggled against what are apparently my instincts. It's led to confusion and bad decisions, things that haven't worked out, drifting. I can't follow my true impulses, because they will cause me to die, but I can't push directly against them either because it scrambles everything. I've always tried to hide it. I wanted to be like my mom or my grandmothers. Good. Good without trying. I didn't want wild or negative or dark things to even occur to me. I just wanted to be a nice woman in a clean house with good relationships and no reason to worry or feel guilty. I felt like I was so far from that, and when those women would discipline or disapprove of me, I felt ashamed and resentful to be so unlike them.
To put myself in perspective, I probably am a brownie or bluebird level bad girl compared to the best and worst. A junior. I'm too lazy and bored to get into trouble these days. And I hate people who think they're badder than they are. Self-satisfied children who, in their safe lives, lack completely the perspective to know how risk-free their experiences have been. People who characterize themselves as bad seeds and rebels never are. The real aberrations try to hide it. I'm in there somewhere.
I didn't know Dorothy Parker either, though. She wasn't as sad as all that, or not all the time. I see that in her because that's I'm what attuned to, what I look for. She speaks my language, and I cringe harder when I read her stories because they ring a secret bell in my brain. When I read her, it's palliative and painful at the same time. Sometimes I feel like it's self indulgent, bad behavior for me to read her. Antagonizing myself.