J a n u a r y   2 0 0 5

Guest Writer

Enough about you
All I ever write about is me
by Rachel Mendez

ast night I wrote a book review. I wrote it because I'm trying not to write about myself, which is all I ever write about.

I write about my emotions, my memories and sex. And I feel guilty about this.

Shouldn't I be writing about something important? Politics? The AIDS crisis in Africa? Genocide? Racism? Homophobia? The future of the Supreme Court? These are all things I care about, deeply.

But all I ever write about is me.

So, last night, I wrote a book review. That seemed safe. I'd write about something other than me. It was easy. I critiqued the writing style, the content, even the font and design of the book. Two paragraphs into it, I wrote about myself. I wrote about my emotions, my memories and sex, all in relation to the book I reviewed.

I just can't stop.

I was weaned on the feminist movement of the late '60s. I knew the phrase "The Personal is Political" long before I knew what the words meant.

But is the personal political? Is my writing, so unself-consciously self-centered, as valuable or valid as the writing of someone who writes only about politics or the AIDS crisis in Africa or the future of the Supreme Court? Isn't my writing just the semi-obsessive indulgence of someone who can't get enough of herself, like a dog rolling in his own shit? I revel in it – the smell, the texture, the richness of my own thoughts about my own life.

I've always been this way. In the tiny New England college I attended, I studied poetry rigorously and wrote it constantly. I wrote about my emotions, my memories and sex.

Every week, in preparation for our serious and severe critiques, we'd go down to the basement of the old farmhouse that served as the college's administration building. We'd run the special mimeograph sheets through the ancient mimeograph machine, cranking the handle and getting blue ink on our fingers in that dark basement which once held some woman's carefully prepared jars of vegetables and plum preserves.

Then we'd put our poems, blurry and blue, in the mailboxes of our fellow poetry students, never more than seven of us, all together. It seemed a safe place to write my confessional poems. We never discussed content, only words and how to make each poem as tight as possible.

Until one day, when a man I'd slept with and written poems about, asked me to please stop.

Turns out that the poems were eagerly read, each week, by his friends – one of whom was in the poetry critiques. My poems were the Penthouse Forum of our tiny, intellectual campus.

I didn't know it then, but I was a confessional poet.

Although I'd never heard the term, I was firmly in the tradition of writers who write only about themselves and experiences most people wouldn't even tell their best friends. I was also a confessional painter. I painted images so graphic and personal that they were often censored. I was also a confessional cartoonist and made comics so graphic and personal they made people laugh nervously as they read them. And I became, in time, a confessional blogger, writing so openly and honestly about my life that people wondered how I could stand to share such information on the Internet.

Recently, I closed down my blog in a belated attempt at decorum. The very same day, I opened an anonymous blog elsewhere which, believe it or not, is even more private and personal.

I don't think I can stop writing about myself. Or drawing or painting about myself. I think it is my skill. It is my oeuvre. My genre. I can write book reviews, I can write about politics, I can write about whatever subject I want, but it will always come back to me. My emotions, my memories and sex will always creep into the writing.

I may as well just do it, and try to do it well.

Find more from Rachel in our archives.

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