Yesterday, I was chatting with a friend about the upcoming release of the third and final installment in my Apron Strings Trilogy – If It Ain’t One Thing… This friend, having been cautioned by a mutual acquaintance that the material might be too heavy for her, admitted to not having read my previous books. I didn’t understand, I said, how the subject matter would offend her but would love to hear what her thoughts were if she ever did decide to read the Apron Strings series. The next day, after pondering our earlier conversation, I texted that our shared friend probably knew her better than I and perhaps the material might well be too difficult. I can only speak from my perspective. I like to read things perceived to be difficult. I want what I read to challenge to my status quo.
In response to my text, she typed “I’m sure [our mutual acquaintance] said what she said knowing I can be sensitive to ignorant fear- based racist attitudes… It’s something a person who is not of color can’t understand. Unless a person has grown up in a black/Latino neighborhood, they have only an outsider perspective of what it is like to be in a black or brown body.”
Her text elicited an avalanche of introspective ruminations on my part. Right, I am inexperienced in the world as a black or brown body since I possess neither. No particular shade of skin, however, is required to have an adverse reaction to ignorant fear- based racist attitudes. The paramount question in her words is “what do I know about being?” Am I only cognizant of what life is like in my own white body?
Knowledge as to how it would be to be the President entirely escapes me, but I find myself sure on a pretty regular basis I might be better at it. I cannot view the world as anyone of my children, despite the fact that they each spent nine months inside of my body. Hubs and I have managed to live together for thirty years, and I haven’t a clue how things stack up from his eyes. My siblings—their worldview and feelings on the subject are as mysterious to me as a stroll on the moon. I hear what they all say, but I am unable to comprehend with any amount of certainty what it is to be any of them.
A few weeks ago, I was party to a chat wherein someone was asked her occupation. The answer was far from the truth, from where I stood. Thinking better of a confrontation at that exact moment, I left off questioning my friend’s integrity until later. In the time between then and later it occurred to me I didn’t grasp for sure that we shared the same reality. Think about witnesses to an accident. There are as many versions of an event as there are pairs of eyes viewing it. The assumption is that we all reside on the same page, but do we? If you think so share a memory with a family member and ask if they remember it the same, then share the results with me.
Who am I without the benefit of memories, beliefs, thoughts, and feelings? I have glimmers of who and what, but only occasional ones. Wait, you say, aren’t all those memories and all essence au moi? Don’t those things make me-me, and separates me from the rest of the seven billion people on the planet? How would it be possible to give those up to go out in public without my unique way of seeing?
The hacks we use to personalize ourselves helped us mix in consensus reality until recently. Now, the primacy of our wants, needs, and preferences are a hindrance. Our ability to connect suffers as we cling to our own brand. None of us knows what it is to truly view life through another’s perspective. One of the perks of being a novelist is, having to see life through your characters’ points of view. The process of writing my books forced me to climb out of myself, if only temporarily, and use memories of my own experiences and the stories of others’ experiences to think and act as another person. Often, I find myself seeing the world through my character’s eyes, particularly those of my Apron Strings Trilogy character, Ethel.
All of us seem to demand the world be, as we alone perceive it. The dire predictions for the future require a significant change. Our precious individualism has become a threat to our survival. The time has come to give up all our unnecessary distinctions, our valuable and sensitive uniqueness and get around to celebrating the only thing we all have in common—humanity.