Posts tagged “narrative non fiction

Another Burning Man article by a “pretty white girl”

Unpacking The Lies You Tell Yourself At Burning Man

Who knew getting hated on could be so rewarding? To date, the essay I wrote about my Burning Man experience (see above) has been read ­­­­­50,000 + times. This might be normal for other writers, but since I’m usually locked away in a long form narrative, this shit never happens to me.

I’ve felt elated, proud, shocked, seen, and – hurt. Because there’s also been a lot of backlash. By readers who hate Burning Man in general and thus hate the article (which is such a curiosity, to take the time to read AND comment on an event you’ve never attended but loathe intensely … Burning Man is so charged like that). And by Burners themselves who hate – well, me. Or at least what I wrote, what I represent, “everything that’s going downhill about Burning Man.” To get backlash from the community stings a little. Okay, a lot. I got called a Sparklepony. In Burn culture, this is very, very unflattering.

When I look back at what I wrote, in the midst of unpacking the rental van, hair ratted, bike chafed, picking playa dust out of my eyelashes, mourning the loss of my sleep schedule, hoping we wouldn’t get charged a cleaning fee on the van, getting charged anyway, catching up on bills and checking in with family, yeah I cringe at how obnoxious the article is at times. But in that haze of post peak experience deadline drama, I had no time to self-censor, no time to organize my thoughts beyond a brain dump of what the experience was like inside my neurotic, self-judgmental mind.

I agree with some of the detractors. I wasn’t there for my camp as much as I could’ve been, admitting lugging grey water in apocalyptic heat was the hardest physical labor I’ve ever done was a pretty embarrassing window into my privileged existence. But the comments that piss me off are the ones that refer to me as “just another pretty white girl.” This means my experience isn’t valid? This means I can’t have a point of view?

Would it have made a difference if I’d divulged that I’ve spent the last year as caretaker to my very ill father? That getting to spend a week feeling alive in the desert was the antidote to our endless ER visits. And that before that I was holding space for my boyfriend when he got run over by an SUV, breaking both legs and spending months in a wheelchair. And that he and I got our Burning Man tickets as the goal on the horizon when he would walk again. And that even though we’re not together anymore, my ultimate Burn highlight was when we found each other on the playa under the moon, marveling that he could not only walk but dance and ride a bike, and we held the solar shower for each other as we took little bird baths and discussed our favorite art installations.

If I’d shared all that, would it have made a difference?

Or is that just something a pretty white girl would say?

With that said, now I’ll do the only thing you really can do in life: focus on the light.

In this case: the positive feedback the article has generated. Readers who’ve shared El Guaco-esque experiences of their own, and the owner of El Guaco himself, who found me on Facebook to say El Guaco is his playa contribution because he’s an introvert and this is how he feels comfortable interacting with people.

Some other things I need to say:

–My heart is heavy for the man who ran into the fire, for his family, for those who witnessed it. I didn’t address this in the article because I wanted to gently shine a light on all the other aspects of the experience. I don’t have anything poetic to say about it, just had to acknowledge it.

–I love bike culture at Burning Man. It’s such a return to childhood, riding around with your friends, your bike posse. It’s the perfect example of the duality out there, hedonistic activities happening simultaneously as you get in touch with your inner child.

–Something needs to be said about baby wipes at Burning Man. They are a gift from heaven. That’s all.

–To save face, I know I should write more about my previous Burns, in response to the commenters who wrote that it’s sad I’d been 4 times and was still such a “spectator.” But that’s another article for another time. And I’m pretty ready to be done with Burning Man for the year.

The last thing I want to say is I’ve had haters before. I wrote a sex column for a semester in college that was so divisive I got both applauded by my First Amendment and Society professor, and nearly kicked out of school. Being the center of such turmoil was thrilling, and embarrassing. It was right after my mom’s death and I was in a very “fuck it” place in my life. I’d be lying if I said the backlash didn’t affect me deeply. I wanted to hide for the entire year following. What’s changed in ten years? Then I was writing for shock affect, this time I was authentically expressing myself and my experience. I think I just have a somewhat salacious way of moving through life. I’ve also had ten years of rejection and disappointment to get me primed.

Okay, controversy. Okay, Burning Man. I’ve said all I can say. I’m done. For the year. Or longer. Or not.


Secrets from my high school diary.

I just got home from my writer’s group holiday party. Normally we bring pages from whatever we’re working on, but since this was a party and we intended to get drunk, we brought in pages from our old diaries to read. This was an excellent idea, if you ask me. Which you are, because you’re reading my blog. Half the fun was looking through my old journals, which was no small feat. I was a prolific diarist, especially the last few years of high school. One pink diary in particular chronicles many milestones, and things got real juicy around the time I started partying. A few excerpts for your entertainment:

“I hope I’m not in trouble, I came home last night with three Zima’s in my jacket pocket. I had so much freedom for once, me and Renee went to Reno to Kick’s and went dancing! It’s this new awesome 18 and older dance club, we passed back a fake ID to make us 18. We didn’t even have to be home until 12:30! Also I did well on my finals! I won the Key Club vice-presidency and I got new skis! Yet I’m getting in trouble a lot. Mom got a call from the same cop my sister got a call from when she was a junior, telling her I’ve been seen smoking pot! It’s just so weird. I’ve never heard of that happening, getting a call like that!”

It’s difficult to believe I fell for this, but my mom did in fact tell me a cop saw me smoking pot and called her as a warning. Pretty clever on my mom’s behalf, as it scared the daylights out of me. Could’ve been true I suppose, we lived in a really small town. But considering my sister had gotten the same “call” I think it was a set-up.

“I think I’ve lost myself a little. I don’t really have passions stirring inside. Friday night my dad took me and Beth to a Matchbox Twenty concert! Rob Thomas was so sexy in black leather pants! Then Beth stayed the night, we had an awesome talk. She informed me people think I’m a ditz. I figured out I’m selling myself short. It’s stopping. I might be forgetful, but I’m not exaggerating it anymore. We stayed up until 1:45am, which was stupid because we had PSAT’s at 8:00am! They were hard and intimidating! Oh and I went to haunted house with Charlie*. He has a fake ID so he bought us beer. We held hands! He was such a badass, smoking cigarettes. We were waiting for our friends and had the best talk. We talked about how I’m a virgin and he’s not, it was cool. He’s so deep. One thing led to another and we made out! He has his tongue pierced! It was so cool. He told me to come over today to watch Braveheart. But I got there and all his skater friends were there. Whatever. Maybe it was just a one time thing?”

Gawd. I could go on forever. Instead I’ll leave you with two poems from zee pink diary. My teenage self is mortified, but I’m going to share them anyway.

“Enemy” // I am my own worse enemy. I think too much, drink too much, wear my heart on my sleeve for all the world to see. // I’m a walking contradiction, or so I’ve been told. I don’t agree but if you persist I’m sold, sold, sold. // Shut up and be happy, you have no right to complain. But I do because I know who I want to be, but instead I quest for fame. // I’ll just keep on smiling instead, you would say this isn’t important, these are just the contents of my head. // You think you know me, pass me off as fake and dumb. Well, you don’t know me. I would think you’d understand we’re all just people, with different ideas of fun. // Just give me a break, and I’ll give you one too. Maybe things will work out. Maybe I’ll have the courage to be new.

“Summertime” // Whispers floating on the breeze, thoughts lost with such ease, a giggle, a smirk, the summertime dirt. // Take me there, to the months of carefree, take me there, where I can be me. // Not a show, or unending fights, just freedom, and those warm lazy nights. // Just the hot sun and days at the river, asking a boy you like to come hither. // When you fight over ice cream and whose lips are number, you go quiet a moment and realize it’s summer.

I love my writer’s group. I love the holidays. I love WriteGirl, which has been so inspirational lately. The girls write the most descriptive, powerful poems and stories. I feel connected to my younger self through them.

*Charlie is a fake name, used to protect the guilty.