pulling strings

I can’t go on a vacation, away from you, soon enough.  I want to travel alone without being told what to do, who to call, how to live. "I’m a big girl" I remind you, but then you use it against me in a mocking tone when I later ask for help with the door, or reaching for something on a top shelf.  "Help me choose between these two outfits" turns into, "well you know best, don’t you, so just tell me what to wear because it’s plain to all how much you hate my scarves, my taste, my choices and decisions."  You say you’re afraid you’ll end up playing the father role to me, having to take care of me.  You put me in that role, handing me the script, when you treat me the way you do, when you send notes dictating the things I should be doing.  Call this one. Follow up with her.  Remind him.  All behind the "I love you" subject line, in your head thinking it’s just your gentle way of reminding me. You make me play the part, because I was accustomed to doing it in my youth.  I don’t have a sweet tooth anymore.  I won’t go from one puppeteer to the next. 

Maggie Carpenter in Runaway Bride doesn’t know how she likes her eggs.  She absorbs the likes and dislikes, the opinions of each new suitor, in part, because each one allows it.  Then there’s no friction, no arguments.  It’s better for everyone, until it’s not.  I like my eggs soft boiled and smeared onto white toast.  I’m a user of whole wheat because the books say so.  It’s compromise most of the time, with what I want and what my body wants for me.  I battle it daily, just as I do with you.  Because I don’t want to return to the wooden state of being and doing just as you command.  Lifting my little joints, pulling them for your delight.  Maggie made light at the end.  This is mine.

"I have other duties equally sacred.  Duties to myself . . I believe that, before all else, I am a human being, no less than you– or anyway, I ought to try to become one.  I know the majority thinks you’re right, Torvald, and plenty of books agree with you, too.  But I can’t go on believing what the majority says, or what’s written in books.  I have to think over these things myself and try to understand them."  –Ibsen, A Doll’s House

I think power struggles happen, especially now, because we both want to set the guidelines of how we want to be treated, how we see a good relationship working.  You want me to do things for myself, yet you send pestering notes telling me what to do when I have a chance.  It’s not the notes, alone.  It’s the tone you take when you say it in person.  Sweet but even-tempered, like my father.  You talk to me as if I’m a little girl.  Little Nora, doing as Torvald wishes.  I’m not a child anymore.  I have choices, and I choose not to be treated like your doll living in your house of tangled strings and attachments.



  1. I just want to say that a bit of ssri meds would help you avoid all your sturm and drang. Who needs to be so upset all the time? I know it helped me with my anxiety. I feel it would be worth trying for you; have you ever tried it? I was very resistent but now i feel it has changed my life for the better. imho.

  2. I just found it ironic that the following quote was my snippet for the day on gmail.

    "Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect." – Mark Twain.

  3. Just need to point out this was a writing exercise and is not about my relationship. I was pulling a Wicked, trying to write from a modern-day Nora's perspective using some details from my own life. It was just an exercise, so please, for once, try not to analyze me. Merci.

  4. I am not so sure that Stephanie needs meds…I think these are just normal growing pains that any relationship experiences. I believe she is using writing as her therapy…

  5. There's also the angle that Nora has a giant weight on her shoulders, of which Torvald is completely unaware— making his condescension all the more galling. That complicates the dynamic a bit more.

  6. You had me at soft-boiled.

    And GO with the white; the wheat toast doesn't yield enough to the egg.

    That probably should be about philosophy, but it's enough for me that it's all about breakfast!

  7. My dear Stephanie, it is such a pleasure to read you every day. You are so brave and full of life.
    Sorry for my poor English but I write you from Milan, Italy.
    I can tell you that very strange things happen when you became a couple: you start behaving like you are a guest in someone else’s territory. You even have difficulties in breathing (it may disturb) and sometimes the other doesn’t work for the same goal, but against it.
    What I discovered is that this whole couple thing IS about taking care: like a lover, like a father, like a friend of yourself and of your companion. You are not asking the other to solve your problems (that's what he understands when you involve him and he feels frustrated because he can’t), you just need someone that can listen to them. And assure you that, as long as you are together, no matter what is going to happen, he will be there to for you, bearing the fact that sometimes, he just has to stay there, doing nothing.
    Being a couple is about helping your beloved with kindness and discretion, enjoying the success and trying to let the old wounds emerge and be healed.
    Steph, we all have to give room to our needing without rage. I know it's really hard to express who we are, and when you become a couple, you feel your are not yourself anymore. Try to let it out but don't be violent. He won't run away, he will just learn that there are so many parts of you, not just beautiful ones or strong ones, and he will love them all, because this will help him to recognise and let his out.

  8. Wait I am so confused — Nora saw Runaway Bride? And she also liked her eggs soft-boiled? What a coincidence. You might try to cut out the popular culture references and really try to let go of writing in your voice if you are going to do this exercise. It might be freeing for you, no?

  9. Meryl, your disdain seems a bit misplaced. it's not much of a stretch for people to think the blog is about the author. i respectfully refer you to its tagline– "Greek Tragedy: stories of my life". granted, the filing/category heading of each individual post may specify otherwise, but i gather that not every reader knows enough to scroll to the bottom of the post and then discern that "writing exercise" automatically means "not about me." (especially since this, apparently, isn't always the case.)

  10. well i guess that is the problem with "writing". It is open to interpretation by the reader so you can't get mad at your audience for not being able to know exactly what you mean – especially this type of audience where many don't know the writer personally. It seems quite silly to get mad a people for simply offering advice. It is totally your choice to take it or leave it.

  11. In the last few days people have really gotten their bloomers in a bunch over nothing. Why do people create so much drama? Kate, Stephanie hasn't responded AT ALL to anyone's criticism! Why say "you can't get angry at your audience…". People create a reality and argue about the false reality. It's almost the weekend!

  12. Tamika – i was referring to Meryl's comment.
    And for the record, Stephanie did respond to the criticism so i think it is a bit dramatic for you to say that she hasn't responded AT ALL.

  13. Maybe it's just me, but I think it's pretty difficult to find any man who is a real man who won't talk to his woman that way.

    At least, that's how all of my lovers have spoken to me, like I'm a child. But only sometimes.

    Men are just like that, I think. Maybe it's one of those men are from mars, women are from venus things. Maybe they have an innate need to at least feel like they are in control, even if they are not.

    Hang in there, you are a strong woman. We all have to make allowances in relationships. It's just a part of not being single.

    Best Wishes ~ Josephine

  14. OK gang! How about a parlor game? Would Nora & Torvald most likely vacation at Club Med Turks & Caicos; on a Scandinavian fjord cruise; or the Poconos? Extra points for stating the contents of Nora's luggage. Winner gets to cannonball into Stephanie's outdoor pool.

  15. Stephanie-Great work! I think the pop culture references are just fine for this forum. It flowed well too. I saw the category, writing exercise, after I saw your comment. Perhaps you could put it at the top of the post (i.e. "Fiction"), so there will be less confusion. Or perhaps the confusion works in your favor and creates a little controversy in the comments.

  16. Stephanie
    I love your blog. I loved this entry. Whether or not it was about you was irrelevant. The writing was excellent. The style choice was perfect.

  17. Barbara,
    Scandinavian Cruise! In Mrs. Helmer's bag are card tricks, a magic hat, a bunny, and some colored hankies. She is the new entertainment on the cruise, no? Show starts at 8 in the main dining room after a meal of smoked salmon…

    "I have been performing tricks for you, Torvold." – Nora

  18. Hmmm….I think everyone was sort of ‘relating’ and then pissed off to find out that it was a writing exercise. Yes—the bottom does indicate this. In any event, I even related to it somewhat, and fell in love with the way you worded everything so brilliantly. (As usual)

    Sometimes a long relationship can take upon roles that we don’t necessarily choose. There are some couples who go through that father/daughter thing and vise/versa. It’s strange and then sex becomes almost like incest.

    On another note, there are people who are so passionate about people’s “truths” to their writing. Did you hear about the author of “A Million Little Pieces”, James Frey? He wrote a book regarding his recovery to his addiction and life problems, etc…and some truths to it was stretched and/or lied about. He said he ‘coped better’ with writing it out in a certain way. What’s your opinion on authors lavishing up their writing with exercises? Should they state that it’s fiction—even if it is mildly twisted around somewhat—just to make it ‘that much interesting’? Just wanted to get your views on that one.

  19. Not about her life? What's the point of that? I read this blog because it is about someone's life. Sure, Stephanie may exaggerate things or take some things out of context. But if it is completely removed from her own self then it wouldn't be very interesting. I appreciate that she puts herself out there, faults and all. It's very entertaining to see inside another person.

  20. If I want to write a comment, do I have to read all the other comments and then write, fully informed? 'Cause I ain't doin' that. Sorry. Reading all the comments makes my head hurt. Analysis of analysis of analysis, ad infinitum.

    I enjoyed reading this entry. It has a real Tracy-Hepburn, girl-to-be-reckoned-with feeling that I would certainly treasure in a partner, even if she scared me a bit and kept me on my toes. And while it is not you speaking, the fact that you can inhabit this voice so well lets me know that you are no wallflower, either. Nevertheless, it is important, even when difficult, to separate the writer and her writings. It always bugs me how much people plumb Joyce's writings for clues about him as a person, for example. However autobiographical in tone a person's writings may be, there is a necessary distance between creator and creation.

    And please, do not my friends think that just because the lady shows some Weltschmerz that she needs to be anesthetized with anti-depressants. They have their place and work wonders, but they do not save us from feeling our feelings, our anger and sorrow.

  21. Deb – first of all, I don't think there is a literate person on the planet who has not heard about James Frey…

    That being said, I think a writer can perform any sort of writing exercise they want as long as they aren't selling it to the public as non-fiction. Perhaps you didn't know that Frey initially tried to shop his manuscript around as a novel? When he got no takers he did a bit of retooling and ended up selling it as a memoir.

    And you know what sucks about that? I don't think James Frey is a particularly gifted writer – his prose is overly dramatic and far too schtick-y for my taste – yet people responded on a visceral level to his novel because they thought it was true. I think a lot of JF's readers overlooked his crappy writing because they thought they were reading about someone's actual life – not the wildly exaggerated ramblings of a drunken frat boy.

    Is there anyone who actually thinks it's ok to completely misrepresent the truth just to tell a better story? If you want to make shit up just call it fiction.

  22. Stephanie,

    Firstly, I found your site while going through Blogebrity. I've been looking for quite a while for blog to read regularly, and as I'm sure you're quite aware, there's a lot of garbage out there.

    Not yours. I haven't read all of your posts yet–I'll get to them eventually–but I like what I've read so far. I know you don't need me to tell you that it's good, but it is nice when a fellow writer acknowledges your work, which is what I am doing now.

    If I may comment on your most recent post, I too have a sweet tooth for the things that are bad for me, love and life among them. But having a little faith in people, even in the wake of their criticism and pushiness and controlling natures, helps us bolster our own confidence and self worth. I think Ibsen would agree.

    Keep up the nice work. I will be coming back for more so I’m relying on you to keep me entertained. Good luck with your manuscript. If you find a good literary agent, let me know. I too am trying to get my books published. It's a tough gig!

  23. It's a little self-indulgent to compare yourself to Nora, don't you think? I mean, "A Doll's House" is a story of extreme imprisonment (both self- and other-imposed), and here you're upset that someone's reminding you to make a call, to do little things in your life. That's love, that's helping to make sure someone else's needs are met. BOTH partners should do that.

    It sounds to me like you might be better off reflecting on self-sabatoge, rather than self-imprisonment. Think Tolstoy. Think "Death of Ivan Ilyich."

    I apologize for the analysis (not really), but that entry invites it – as does anything you offer for public consumption.

  24. Give me a mother fucking break. Do bloggers need to write disclaimers before their posts now? Shit! This post was for Stephanie–sometimes posts are for the writer not the mass of readers–that is why writers write. Let her have it. We get so much of her anyway. It's a privilege to read this blog. Just be grateful and write what you want to write on your own blogs.

  25. YO! It's a blog my children.. Let the girl write what she pleases. She ain't under contractual obligation to you… If the girl is feelin' like expanding her writing voice, playing with perspectives.. well – as the infamous B. Brown and our gal' Brit Brit both opine, it's her prerogative.. If you're that big a fan, surely you've figured out her "categories" system. It's nice to think about a post and what she means by it and how much is the real Steph and how much is word and character play.. Let your thoughts be provoked.. Try it. You'll like it. Did that sound snide? Wasn't meant to.

  26. Hi Stephanie, where are you taking writing classes? Anywhere good that you would recommend? I am looking for one…
    Thanks! Debbie (friends with Brett and Jen)

  27. I love readers who don't seem to really pay attention, who come expecting you to be dishing on your life when sometimes you write via some random inspiration, or in past tense, as you call it.

    It's probably good practice for gearing up for the amazon reviews of your book this summer. We the public can be so harsh…and clueless!

    Hope you find that Wow House.

  28. I was just saying sometimes you write something that has nothing to do with your feelings or your life and get lots of analyzing comments. I know readers don`t always know what is writing exercise and whats not.
    Long time ago I wrote about heartbreak and got lots of comments assuming someone broke my heart and that I was hurt and maybe even bitter etc It wasnt very nice
    My comment was more like: been there, done that, I know what you mean.

  29. not sure if stephanie needs meds? if you sincerely believe that, you may want to invest in some meds for yourself. i know it wont sound sincere, but i think at age 30+ these perpetual issues go beyond the definition of normal growing pains. that might be applicable for a girl in the throws of teenage turmoil between the ages of 13-15, but at 30+, i think meds is a good suggestion.

  30. stephanie –

    lo and behold the reason why i have never, and will never, post anything other than typical blog fare on my blog. the critical analysis of those who probably don't understand the assignment, the motive, or the plot seems so contrived.

    i think it was fine. it worked… for you… and what else matters?

    keep it up.


  31. what the fuck? is there a full moon? i've never read so many bitchy, snarky comments in my life. mine included!

  32. To Joe: Perhaps I am one of the last people on the planet that don't beleive in the whole "meds are the cure all" for any issue or insecurity that we as human beings tend to have…

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