I have this new chair. Actually, it’s an old chair I just had reupholstered for the third time in twenty five years, hoping I will finally like it. At the moment, people in my family are treating its new incarnation with restraint— it’s fine. I might not have chosen it. Not for me. The pattern seemed ordained when I saw it—a bold choice, a choice for life. Wearing it, my chair would declare itself: I have imagination, I have a sense of humor, I will not hide from the world, I refuse to be polite. Now that it’s in my house, I consider it, cringing—is it too loud? Will people think it’s weird?
When Kathe was five, she fell in love with a lavishly patterned gold coat. My mother, who had taken Kathe on the shopping trip, fought with her in the dressing room. That is a horrible coat. I won’t buy it for you. It makes you look like trash. Kathe dug in. She loved the coat. But the fight undid them both. Kathe, eyes watering, my mother resolute. Kathe had never heard such words before– you look like trash. We gave her the coat for her birthday, but it hung in her closet until she outgrew it, never worn.
I worry about my chair—do you look like trash? Will people disapprove of your exuberance, be offended by your noisy swirls? I creep around it, afraid I have made a terrible mistake, one I will have to live with for the next ten years. And then I remember Austin Kleon, who says, in a hundred different ways, don’t be ashamed of who you are. Put the book down if you don’t like it. Borrow from artists you admire, walk away from work that drains you. Two quotes in his latest newsletter, from Borges and another writer, both saying that you should only read what you love, and set aside the rest. Because we don’t have much time.
Two nights ago, the night before this exuberant, unapologetic chair arrived, I flopped into bed, script finished, and told Danny I love telling stories. I don’t really care about making art, or leaving a legacy. I just want to entertain people. I deeply admire writers who make art. And I often get confused by that admiration, think I should have loftier ambitions.
Maybe I need to climb into my joyful, ugly chair, and write.