Monday, March 24, 2008

oranges are not the only fruit

So yesterday I stepped inside a Southern Baptist church for the first time in more than 20 years. And lived to tell about it--which I will--as soon as I do the lesbian thing and PROCESS. I did it as a gesture of appreciation to my mom and dad, who have traveled in unknown territories many times for me (EQME dinners, Walk with the Ones You Love...essentially the entire experience of having me as a daughter).

Like I said, story to follow at some point.

When I got home last night, I pulled out my worn, tattered, well-loved copy of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson. It's one of my favorite books in the world, the coming out story of a young British girl in the 60's who also happens to cut her teeth as an evangelical. It's funny, it's inspiring, it's damn fabulous. And let's just say...I can relate to this book.

When I was younger, I had a tendency to jot notes in the margins of books, underline passages that I thought were important or interesting or a funny way for the author to write something (a habit left over from earning a degree in English.) Last night, I skimmed through the book to revisit those notes and to see what I had found fascinating fifteen years ago when I read the book for the first time. Fun.

Here's a sampling:

~I was glad I didn't have testicles. They sounded like intestines only on the outside, and the men in the Bible were always having them cut off and not being able to go to church. Horrid.

~In the library I felt better, words you could trust and look at till you understood them, they couldn't change half way through a sentence like people, so it was easier to spot a lie.

~The only thing for certain is how complicated it all is, like a string full of knots. It's all there but hard to find the beginning and impossible to fathom the end...History should be a hammock for swinging and a game for playing, the way cats play. Claw it, chew it, rearrange it and at bedtime it's still a ball of string full of knots.

~We were quiet, and I traced the outline of her marvellous bones and the triangle of muscle in her stomach. What is it about intimacy that makes it so disturbing?

~To eat of the fruit means to leave the garden because the fruit speaks of other things, other longings. So at dusk you say goodbye to the place you love, knowing you can never return by the same way as this. It may be, some other day, that you will open a gate by chance, and find yourself again on the other side of the wall.

~I knew I couldn't cope, so I didn't try. I would let the feeling out later, when it was safe. For now I had to be hard and white. In the frosty days, in the winter, the ground is white, then the sun rises, and the frost melts... (i wrote 'cindi' next to this.)

~The unknownness of my needs frightens me. I do not know how huge they are, or how high they are, I only know that they are not being met.

~Families, real ones, are chairs and tables and the right number of cups, but I had no means of joining one, and no means of dismissing my own; she had tied a thread around my button, to tug when she pleased. I knew a woman in another place. Perhaps she could save me. But what if she were asleep? What if she sleepwalked beside me and I never knew?

Jeanette WInterson=Brilliant.

1 comment:

Dawn on MDI said...

I am reminded of the time I heard Dorothy Allison give the keynote address at the Out Write! conference in Boston many years ago. "I want to break the world's heart with my words and then put it back together again."

What marvelous passages. They took my breath away. Thank you.