WELCOME TO DECEMBER PROJECT!
boilerplate mission statement intro:
for the past two years, i’ve set december’s project aside to do my own version of a short story advent calendar. it’s not a true advent calendar since i choose all the stories myself, but what it lacks in the ‘element of surprise’ department it more than makes up for in hassle, as i try to cram even MORE reading into a life already overcrammed with impossible personal goals (live up to your potential! find meaningful work! learn to knit!) merry merry wheee!
since i am already well behind in my *regular* reviewing, when it comes to these stories, whatever i poop out as far as reflections or impressions are going to be superficial and perfunctory at best. please do not weep for the great big hole my absented, much-vaunted critical insights are gonna leave in these daily review-spaces (and your hearts); i’ll try to drop shiny insights elsewhere in other reviews, and here, i will at least drop links to where you can read the stories yourselves for free, which – let’s be honest – is gonna serve you better anyway.
HAPPY READING, BOOKNERDS!
links to all stories read in previous years’ calendars can be found at the end of these reviews, in case you are a person who likes to read stories for free:
scroll down for links to this year’s stories which i will update as we go, and if you have any suggestions, send ’em my way! the only rules are: it must be available free online (links greatly appreciated), and it must be here on gr as its own thing so i can review it. thank you in advance!
At last, after a frantic rabbity burst, he shuddered, came, and collapsed on her like a tree falling, and, crushed beneath him, she thought, brightly, This is the worst life decision I have ever made! And she marvelled at herself for a while, at the mystery of this person who’d just done this bizarre, inexplicable thing.
this story was on my long-ago-compiled list of “stories to read for advent calendar.”i remembered there had been some sort of buzz around it but i wasn’t really paying attention because i knew i wasn’t going to be reading it until december and i didn’t want to go into it with any sort of borrowed judgment. after reading it today, i was curious about the nature of the buzz and went exploring and now i remember why internet is the worst.
i don’t even want to review this because, even though the hype of this story has died down, trolls are forever and i’m not someone who relishes faceless online conflicts. at all.
i loved the writing in this story. i loved the depth of characterization roupenian developed in her depiction of an emotionally careless, insecure, narcissistic twenty-year-old girl drunk on her own sexual currency and perceived power as she flirts with an older man she’s only half-interested in over the course of – what, a month or so?, feeling hurt when he doesn’t seem responsive, rushing headlong into a consummation she initiates, orchestrates and enthusiastically participates in “put[ting] on a show for him,” before her self-disgust kicks in and she regrets the encounter, rebuffing and avoiding further contact, letting her roommate end whatever relationship was beginning by sending a curt text.
he seems to take it well until he sees her in a bar one night, resulting in a flurry of increasingly pathetic texts, the last one calling her a whore.
i read this story and thought ruefully: “ah, the follies of youth!”
i apparently read it wrong.
i’m never going to be a contemporary female because i don’t always see the female as the victim.
here’s the thing – there are assholes who are danger, and there are assholes who are just going to make you feel shitty about yourself. and sometimes you deserve to feel shitty about yourself, girl. chalk it up as a life lesson and try to do better going forward. should he have called her a whore? it was impolite, but she hadn’t earned politeness. ladies, if you slept with a guy and thought things were cool enough that you sent him benign romantic texts afterwards, were ignored for days, and then got a text from him that said, “Hi im not interested in you stop textng me,” chances are, you would call him an asshole. is he literally an asshole? no, but you’re pissed. a man calling a woman a whore for the same behavior is coming from the same place – someone is hurt, and lashing out to hurt back. welcome to the world of romance. it is often really shitty. but reading an article about this story quoting a tweet that said “… we need to talk about all of the nuances of consent in order to fix our broken culture.” just made me feel so old and exhausted. and the author’s assertion that this story
speaks to the way that many women, especially young women, move through the world: not making people angry, taking responsibility for other people’s emotions, working extremely hard to keep everyone around them happy. It’s reflexive and self-protective, and it’s also exhausting, and if you do it long enough you stop consciously noticing all the individual moments when you’re making that choice.
falls completely flat in the face of the many instances of conscious manipulation and calculated behavior she employs to mold him and his behavior to her designs. that’s not trying to keep someone happy, it’s exerting power over someone else. i’m not saying the above quote isn’t true, but it doesn’t describe the character in this story.
again – there are asshole dudes out there who perpetuate legitimate assault. and then there’s that hazy messy place where two or more well-meaning people are doing bedroom shit they maybe didn’t set out to do, but it all seems to be fine in the fog of sweat and limbs and endorphins and probably booze. and maybe there’s regret afterwards, but so much of life involves regret and at some point you gotta take responsibility for your own mistakes and misjudgments, whatever your gender.
when you’re twenty (or any age, really, but hopefully you’ve learned lessons sooner rather than later) you’re going to make a lot of mistakes, many of them sexual. and throughout your life, you’re going to sleep with people you wish you hadn’t, whether you’re a man or a woman, and whatever the gender of the people in your bed. do i look back over ma vie sexuelle and, given the chance to redo (or rather, re-don’t) think, “hm, maybe not that one?” yesh. have i been in the early stages or middle of something and thought, “i’d rather be reading.” sure. i like reading. but the big dealbreaker in this story is that he’s just not very good at sex. and she’s not as into it as she thought she was going to be, when she was getting off thinking of herself seen through his eyes as this fine young thing that this older, chubby furry guy was lucky to have in his bed.
these two people were not right for each other. and there’s no crime here, just run of the mill shitty behavior. so what you do in a situation like this is you get yourself out of it gracefully and without hurting people by leading them on or hurting people by leaving them without closure. grow up, do the right thing – “you’re a good person, but you’re not who i’m supposed to be with.” it’s sad, but it’s respectful and true and no one’s left sending unanswered texts into the world, confused and hurt, calling names.
that’s my life lesson – try to fuck up as few people as you can on your way through the world. and stop laughing about him with your friends. not cool, sister.
and now i’ve gone and written a longer review for this than for any other story in this advent calendar so far, so see – everyone does stuff they don’t mean to do. but i am only blaming myself.
anyway – i loved the writing – He rolled over and kissed her forehead, and she felt like a slug he’d poured salt on, disintegrating under that kiss, but have been made weary by the resulting kerfuffle.
read it for yourself here: