The Aresan Clan is published four times a week (Tue, Wed, Fri, Sun). You can see what's been written so far collected here. All posts will be posted under the Aresan Clan label. For summaries of the events so far, visit here. See my previous serial Vampire Wares collected here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Laughing at a young girl's poem

I laugh very easily. This is usually advantageous, since it makes me agreeable to others in more lighthearted and casual situations. But it can also be quite disadvantageous for all those other situations when its not appropriate and I just can't help myself and burst out. I can say that, over my life, I’ve laughed at more than a few inopportune times.

One such time was when I was about 20. I had a friend named Melissa who knew that I wrote poetry and thought it would be great if I listened to the poem her younger sister had just written. It was the 2000 presidential election and Elizabeth Dole had just withdrawn her candidacy for the Republication nomination, due to insufficient fundraising. Apparently, Melissa's sister had had high hopes for a female president and when these hopes were dashed, she became disappointed in Dole and the American electorate in general and wrote this poem of lament.

Unfortunately, for her, when I listened to her sad poem, I laughed. I don’t remember why I laughed, perhaps because I thought it was ridiculous to use such high language to eulogize a politician; or perhaps it was because I thought the overt message was too heavy-handed; or perhaps the poem just wasn't that good. I don’t know. Laughter’s spontaneous, and always bursts out much faster than the reasons I try to come up with after the fact.

To be sure, the girl in question was a teenager and with very, very rare exceptions (e.g. Chatterton) poems by teenagers, even by teenagers who will grow up to be great poets later, are consistently bad. I myself wrote reams of bad poetry as a teenager, which I swear to never show to another living soul, for all the derisive laughter they might inspire. But that doesn't mean we should laugh at teenagers when they read us these poems (we should save it for later when they're not around). In fact, the reason I remember this event is because I felt bad about it. I may have crushed this young girls’ dreams with my taunting laughter, leading her to subsequently drop out of school a withered and defeated person, earning money by begging and streetwalking while she cried herself to sleep at night over her ruined life. On the other hand, maybe she decided right then and there, to spurn the haughty misogyny and androcentrism I symbolized and pursue a life of politics, setting herself the unwavering goal of fulfilling the mission that Elizabeth Dole had failed to achieve, to become the first woman president of the United States. More than likely, though, her life was not significantly altered by that event and its importance has merely been magnified in my mind because of the salient feelings I associate with it, but I do feel guilty nonetheless. Whatever the case may be, it wasn't the last time I would ever laugh when it wasn't appropriate, and it's a vice I will bear for many years to come.