here first. until we are there.

a strip tease

I gave a talk today on the joys of reading to two classes of high school sophomores from that school on the hill. the insecure side of me has been reminding me that i’m doing this because some of my closest friends are still teachers at that institution and i’m no authority. which of course, should be slapped silly and told to shut up.

i’m dealing with the sense that i am a fraud. i’ve always dealt with that annoying tendency to contradict myself. so as much as yes, obviously, i love reading, i love books, i love stories —- i feel like i shouldn’t be talking to these kids because the last book i read was an old chick lit book called getting over it because it just soothes me and i’ve been bingeing on television and movies. nothing fantastic

and mariah carey’s ‘breakdown’ suddenly begins to play.

tanggapin na lang na baduy ako. period. snob pa. leche. di ba? ka-loka? hahahaha.

but going back to the more important topic, so the talk…

i’ve actually been giving this talk for the past three years, but it’s been disguised as a short talk on neil gaiman and the sandman, and now it’s for something called real people read.

i basically say the same things and i probably will say the same things for the next couple of years in whatever form possible.

one is that stories tell us who we are. and sometimes, that helps and sometimes it becomes constricting. i love talking about fairy tales and then how the versions we love are cleaned up —- then proceed to tell them about reinterpretations and earlier versions. i

today i made the mistake (or probably not) of talking about sleeping beauty and its latent sexuality and mentioning angela carter’s wonderful ‘company of wolves.’ well, that got the kids’ attention. just say sex and blood, and they shut up — and they want to know more. since these kids are sophomores, they’re a little cocky that they survived freshman year —- and are still keen on pushing the limits so some kids played dumb when they asked what i meant about the other meanings of sleeping beauty pricking herself on a needle and falling asleep for a hundred years only to be awakened by true love’s first kiss or the possible scenarios of a little girl, her little red coat and a wolf hiding in her grandmother’s cottage. my big point was that there are stories behind the stories you know and it’s actually fun to look for these stories. hahahaha el dorko.

what i feel uncomfortable about is that my former chairman was in the audience. and considering past history between us, i sensed that she didn’t like the fact that i mentioned the word SEX in an english class. oh yeah, because there is no sex in books or literature. EVER. i understand where she’s coming from. but i’ve always felt that keeping these truths from these people will only hit them in the end. and besides, what else can she do? i’ve been fired from the frigging job. hay. i still feel it ano? i still feel the shame of being declared incompetent at something i thoroughly enjoy.

so there.

next thing is that since there are so many stories out there, so many voices telling you how and what you are — choice and will are underlined. will you believe this story? will you let this narrative describe your life? describe you? the whole point that things don’t have to be the way they are.

i actually have only seen this concretely in an essay of a young man about to enter college. he came to me asking for help with his entrance essay to ateneo. in it, he discussed how reading especially harry potter showed him that there was more to him than what people have expected from him. he talked about being able to actually do things for himself. reading his essay, i just marked a couple of grammatical errors and told him that he made my day.

and here’s my big finish. i always go back to the issue of faith. and how i feel that’s it’s believing in a story that could as easily be a lie. it’s finding out everything you can, digging for the truest story, and then finally saying, i believe in this. my life will be about this.

so there. that’s my big talk. usually i use seasons of mists and fables and reflections from neil gaiman’s sandman because they lend themselves to my points or more accurately, they are what showed me these points.

interesting enough, apart from the sex and violence i hinted at, i found that the students shut up (as in looked up and opened up) when i told them about myself. like the more interesting story is still the person before you.

a good point, i must say.

all the literature in the world sometimes can’t compare to a living,breathing encounter with another human being. heehee, may sometimes pa talaga.

it was dangerously self-help-y and maudlin. but this is the talk i’ve been giving. i think it’s also what lies underneath all my papers. that pulse, that whole truth —- i love this because it makes sense. in all the ways that you can interpret that.

i guess it is true. after everything’s been said, after i’ve finally given up all that i can to the public, the gaps that will have to be filled in will say that it’s all a love letter to you. you being the ambiguous pronoun that it is.

so i am a fraud. i’m not an authority. i’m not even a teacher. i’m just a sap looking for ways to say i love you.

and that was the secret i should have said that night.

now to get back into my clothing. thank you everyone, tip your waitresses and love whomever you’re with.


2 responses

  1. that was beautiful, ning. that’s not the first time your writing made me cry.miss you :/

    September 26, 2005 at 7:55 pm

  2. the city reader

    you are no fraud, my dear. (which is another way of saying that we are all frauds, in our own meaningful and loveable ways, that there are no true authorities.)what you wrote really resonates with me now, since i’ve just finished teaching metafiction and fabulation (my class loved “Company of Wolves” too!). i love saying that we are the authors as well as the characters in the stories of our lives. but i can’t bring myself to relate this to faith. i envy you your faith.

    September 28, 2005 at 4:18 am

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