I went as Minnie Mouse and other Halloween confessions

“How was your Halloween weekend?” one of my students asked yesterday. I replied that it was great, and then he asked if I wore a costume, and what it was. The answer was simple but, somehow unprepared for such a question, I turned bright red, stammered that I bought a pair of ears at the dollar store across the street, and then I quickly changed the subject.

I have always worn my embarrassment publicly in the form of immediately and fully flushed cheeks (and ears and neck and chest). In middle school, my classmates made a game of trying to make me go red. Adulthood has, thankfully, made these occurrences less common, but it still happens in front of a classroom at least once a semester. It’s unpredictable and awful—and I have learned, in the eight years I’ve been teaching, that the best thing to do is to just keep talking.

I woke up this morning and saw my mouse ears hanging on the radiator and wondered what it was about the phrase, “I was Minnie Mouse” that seemed so impossible to confess to a classroom of eighteen year olds.

photo

the handsomest, saddest Halloween dog.

The truth about my weekend is that I spent a significant portion of it thinking and talking about the space between loving someone and being in love with someone, and how, exactly, one can traverse that space. And one of those conversations took place in a bar very late at night while totally intoxicated and wearing Minnie Mouse ears. And maybe it was that—maybe it was the disjunction between chugging PBR by the Skytrain station on Saturday night and assigning a research paper on Monday afternoon.

Maybe, in that moment, naming the costume felt equivalent to confessing the whole thing: how happy I was all weekend and how strange it is to sit in an almost-empty bar and say to the person across from you, “I totally love you but I am a little bit terrified at the prospect of being in love with you.”

I have written before about the limits of the language of love. Our love vocabulary isn’t quite adequate for discussing all the ways we can be deeply invested in one another, but for the sake of this conversation, let’s call loving someone ‘friendship,’ and being in love with someone ‘romance.’

As far as I can tell, you can get to a romantic relationship either way—you can love someone first and then fall in love with them, moving from friendship to romance. Or you can do what I think most people do, which is to pursue someone as a romantic partner first and hope a friendship develops. But you have to have both, I think–friendship and romance–to create something durable. Continue reading

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the smitten

Exodus 12:12 goes like this:

For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD.

It’s classic King James Old Testament; like every Gothic cathedral you’ve ever visited, it’s at once ornate and resplendent and petrifying.

Another good smiting occurs in Deuteronomy 8:22:

The LORD shall smite thee with a consumption, and with a fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning, and with the sword, and with blasting, and with mildew; and they shall pursue thee until thou perish.

The OT is full of smitings. Most notably the mid-night killing of all Egyptian first born sons. But a smiting isn’t always genocidal; it can apparently resemble certain STDs (or bathroom molds?), and includes curses, plagues, punishments, and pestilences of all variaties. Though the word smite has been used in other contexts, thanks to King James we usually equate it with a blow of Biblical proportions.

Reading these verses reminds me of a visit to Mamaw’s one-room Southern Baptist church. I must’ve been seventeen or eighteen–familiar enough with theology to be arrogant, young enough to be angry. Before baptizing my cousin’s new baby, the preacher made a call to the unusually-large crowd (most of which, in this tiny congregation, was my family) to consider God’s daily personal message to us. If our lives weren’t going as we’d hoped, he cautioned, if we were experiencing sickness or suffering, God was probably punishing us for a lack of faith. It was God’s elbows, nudging us back into his worship. I left boiling with anger at someone telling an already-impoverished community that they were sinners, that their suffering was deserved. But here it is, in God’s very own words (by way of a variety of scribes, politicians, and translators, of course).

Sesquiotica considers the word in all its etymologic complexity. Continue reading