She's Back:  Sept. 1st, 2013


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I have been keeping something like a journal regularly since I was about 11 years old. For a long time it was pen-to-paper in a series of various notebooks. Then, in college, it was floppy discs; word documents on hard-drives; and eventually blogs.


A blog is unique because it is to journal with the intension of bringing in an outsider; the reader whoever they are. And the notion of the bigness of the virtual space – who the reader may entail – can be daunting. As one chooses what to share, they're acutely aware of the varying lens of their mother, their current or future employer, lovers, best friends and enemies alike, are scrutinizing what's presented. One must always remember:


Don't want to look stupid.


So-and-so might read it and think it's about them... Or know it's about them.


Can't share that – it's too political/religious/personal/offensive.


And this is for the best, of course – a conscientious person ought consider these things. But too cleansed a presentation risks leaving one's record wholly forgettable. Impersonal. Unrealistic. So why would anyone read it?


For about 5 years, from 2007-2011, I kept a regular blog – at least once a month – about my life living on my first houseboat, The Road. I shared the good stuff - joyful summer days; and the bad stuff – frozen pips in January. I shared personal victories and defeats; not just about the boat but about jobs and travel. What I didn't talk much about was my personal relationships. I didn't feel I was at liberty to share anyone's story but my own.


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And I didn't have to. It was just the girl, her boat, her dog. The Blog.


Then, in the Spring of 2011, I found myself suddenly in very new territory. I was in love, on a boat I shared, and with our dog.


It wasn't an unpleasant adjustment, but I discovered that I couldn't document it - at least not in the way that I had been. I'd sit down to write a blog post. Just a quick update of what's happening and how I'm doing – and my fingers would hover over the keyboard. Nothing.


Yet so much was happening – everything was changing – the world upside down. New home, new phase, new role, new life.


The chaos was complicated and I couldn't think - let alone write - without stumbling eventually into the scary, ugly and incredibly personal.

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So I didn't. The Captain's Blog went silent as of January.


Then, I began blogging for other people: first for Minnesota Playlist, a local online resource for actors; and the City Pages, with their food blog, Hot Dish.


I was suddenly paid for these frequent hours spent clicking away regarding the world; and I loved the chance to write about a subject other than myself.


I liked it so much in fact, I wrote a play about another person's life – "They Called Her Captain" which premiered at the Fringe Festival. It is the story of Jeanne Goldoff Bearmon who served in the Women's Army Corps in WWII. Among the challenges that I encountered in the writing process was how delicate one's perception of oneself can be. Even at 92, Jeanne was terribly concerned with:


Don't want to look stupid.


So-and-so might read it and think it's about them... Or know it's about them.


Can't share that – it's too political/religious/personal/offensive.


Often I pondered what we could have created if it were just the truth, bumps n' all.


And then Melby and I were on the cover of the City Pages – The River Life issue – and old questions were asked anew. How long have you lived on a boat? What happened to your old boat, did you sell it? So this boat, Toad Hollow – is that the one you took to New Orleans? What happened to the old blog?


So I went back and re-read the 'Old Boat Blog' - began at the beginning:


People who have kept journals may empathize with that thing that happens to you when you re-read them after some time has passed. It's a rabbit hole. There are people and times that well may have slipped away forever, haven't been whispered of since – and are suddenly back in roaring clarity. There are the big moments too, that lingered on the horizon of the pages. When I began reading about the Spring flood of 2010, for example, my stomach sank.

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“I only have one month left with Gracie,” I thought. I read to her end with almost as much dread as I once lived it. Damned memory.


Yesterday afternoon, I lifted my head from those old pages and come back to this new journal with renewed inspiration.


I want to commit to keeping a regular, personal blog again because I like it. Because it's good for me as a writer and a woman and a boater and a human. I will still keep some cards close to my chest - the editor is still on the clock - but I will also dare to let the ugly truth in too.


And I'll start with this one:


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I'm not the roaring Valkyrie who first strode down these planks 7 years ago (if ever I was.) The woman I am today seems to have traded in the steel pole with which she used to crack ice, to wield the no-less hefty weight of a partnership. I fear less than I used to about keeping the boat afloat; but I worry more about whether I am contributing enough. I have twice as much space; but three times as much negotiation.


Ours. The boat and the dog and the life... It is ours. Andrew Melby's, and mine.


This shouldn't be a bitter pill to swallow, but it is.


Maybe it's because I came of age in the 90's when everyone from Friends, to Sex in the City, to Sarah McLaughlin was telling me that a real woman - a modern woman – can do it all on her own. She doesn't need a man – in fact, to tie oneself to a man is to be tied to dead weight. What I was doing – boats, and hard physical struggle, and Rivers and risk – most people ascribe these things to the territory of men. So to be doing it as a woman; and a woman alone, solicited a lot of raised eyebrows and pats on the back. Felt awesome.


As it stands today, aboard our boat, Toad Hollow, I have a partner. Melby bought the boat. He tiled the shower and ran the plumbing; he and his dad hung siding and installed heating – I painted a few rooms. My dad ran the electricity, the marina welded the hull, Melby sealed the pontoons – I hemmed some curtains.


Toad Hollow is big and beautiful and comfortable. I don't have to break ice anymore, the pipes don't freeze like they did my first five winters here – I have A/C on both floors.


… yet there is this Lilith Fair itch that somehow begrudges it all.


“Terrific,” Shawn Colvin whispers in my ear, “You're painting and making curtains while they're using power tools and blow torches... What's happened to you?!?”


And although I'm still not sure how to answer her, here's the unflattering truth: I am certain that if I grabbed up one of those torches, threw on a mask and leapt into the pontoon and said, 'Gee, guys, let me help.' They would teach me and with welcome enthusiasm. Or fuck 'em – I could take a women's-only welding class and do it all my damn self.

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But I don't wanna, is the truth. Because it's oogie down there. The spiders are as big as your head, it smells bad, and it gets you all dirty. And I don't want to hang siding because the sheets are heavy and clumsy and can cut your hands.


And when those thoughts creep in I see the whole post-feminist generation scowling at me. I see a sea of proud woman holding the 'math is hard' Barbie over their heads and marching towards me with angry and disappointed scowls.


So I say, fine – if I'm not going to equally share the labor required to keep this boat afloat, how am I going to make up for it?!? I must make up for it!!! BE EQUAL GODDAMN IT!


So here is the balance we've found: He and I will share the ride to Home Depot (or West Marine, or discount Lumber or wherever) and we'll share the expense. Together, we haul the necessary goods down the ramp and on board. Then a gaggle of dudes descend – dads, buddies, neighbors – and they do all the hard, scarey shit that I don't understand.


I order pizza or make sandwich in a disgusting display of heterosexual normality with which we are both tremendously delighted. And yet... There she sits with her combat boots and hairy calves resting on my sense of self and she's disappointed.


I don't really know what to do about her; but I don't think I'm alone in having her as a contender. A majority of my friends in relationships – men and women, gay and straight - are struggling, to some extent, with their roles as a 'man' or 'woman'; and my single friends almost more so.

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For now, I guess, I'll continue to do strive to do my part – learn, for example, how to change the oil on the little boat – The Naughty. As for Melby, I'm thinking of taking him to my next pedicure – he'd love that shit.


Take that, Jewel. Take that.


 Next Post>>: Of Mice and Boats - Oct. 18th, 2013

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