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Elizabeth Dutton


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don’t look back in anger 

We are all fueled by different things. While waiting for my pack of dogs to return from a midnight run in the woods, I watched a show called Fameless. It is, apparently, a prank show created by David Spade. He gets people desperate to be on reality shows to participate unwittingly in a false show that ends in their pranking. It is mindless at first, but then it becomes incredibly sad. The interviews with the would-be reality “stars” consist solely of them mugging wildly for the camera while announcing their greatest desire: to be famous. They want to be famous more than anything. When asked why, they generally reference a talent for being… energetic? I am not sure. Not much sense is made. Many of the pranked on the show talk in their intro interviews about which celebrities they NEED to hang out with because they are equally “fabulous” or some such.  This makes me sad.

These dear people have been sold a bill of goods that fame, especially for no real reason, is the ultimate goal in life. Everything is superficial. Everything is artifice. They are driven by a need for invented social status, for material goods, for validation, for lazily achieved recognition. My gran always said there were some people who would shit in Macy’s window if they thought it would get them attention. She was always right.

I had to stop watching the show because a) reality tv in general gives me the willies and b) the people were making me sad. I felt terrible for them; I felt awful watching their sincere drive for insincere goals mocked, often with them still clinging to the hope that perhaps THIS, this public humiliation, would make them famous.

As I wondered what drove these people to debase themselves in order to obtain “fame,” I started thinking about what drives me. I do not in any way want to be famous. The notion of fame is foreign, empty, and terrifying to me. I love to be a hermit.  I don’t even want to be monetarily wealthy. I just want my voice heard. I suppose the people on the show are just like I am. We just traffic in different media, have different means of yelling out to the world.

For more than a year now I have been looking for truth in my life that evades me, learning to be honest with myself, and digging at the parts that hurt the most. Fear not, this is not some uncomfortable confessional. I save that for my bi-weekly therapy appointments.

I have written before about the importance of drive and purpose. What drives me? Of course, I feel a deep, almost atomic-level need to write. That is really all I know how to do and the only way I can really communicate (there’s such safety and distance in words). I am neither the best nor the worst at this trade, but it’s all I have. And this is more than just the high-minded platitudes that spill from the lips of every MFA/MPhil writing grad. Writing is all I can do. I wish it was all I had to do. For whatever reason, I have always written and will always write, whether others read it or not. I may be shouting into an abyss, but my voice has been made tangible.

You know what else drives me? I have that same desperate need for validation that the dupes on Fameless possess. The difference is that I want so badly to be validated in so many ways and yet I never believe any praise or kindness. I do not trust anyone. Not a soul. I am of a mind that this is for good reason. A hard heart is a solid heart. Yet I really would give anything to feel truly necessary and vital and loved and relevant. I also wouldn’t know or believe it if any of that happened. Like my beloved Walt Whitman, I contradict myself. I really am large, and I do contain multitudes of something.

Deeper down, I have to admit a real driving force for me: anger. I am a very angry person. I didn’t think this, didn’t believe it for a very long time. Someone pointed it out to me months ago and it was like realizing there was window in your bedroom that you never knew about. I am totally angry. I generally take it out on myself, but I also take it out on others far more than I care to admit. Sure, I have a vast array of anger sources from which to choose, but there aren’t really different flavors of it. Anger is anger. A lot of my writing originates in anger. This is especially true of my current novel-in-progress. I am taking aim at things that make me angry. No, it is not a manifesto (although I do look particularly striking in a hoodie and reflective aviator sunglasses). I’m subtle with the anger, more so than I am in real life. But I am very, very angry. Maybe I actually let that rule me rather than drive me. Can anger be harnessed? I’ll try. I would say I am going to just get rid of it, but that takes time. I am working on that. In the meantime, I am going to acknowledge it. That’s the best I can do. That, like stringing words, is all I can do.

For old time’s sake:


perfectly ripe white peaches

impending cooler weather

conversations that make you feel light

getting ready for the annual Halloween party

perfecting liquid liner cat eye makeup (yet nowhere to wear it)

binge re-watching The West Wing (such an antidote to the Trumpization of politics)

my sweet pack of dogs

despite a couple of medical conditions beyond my control, I am actually in very good health


forgetting things/memory gaps

dashed expectations

others focusing on the aesthetic effect of my meds, while I focus on the lifesaving part

being so far away from my brother and my friends

people who either interrupt conversations or simply ignore what the other person is saying and plow forward with their own thoughts — give and take, people

creepy letters

Lastly, the updated Smile book comes out next month #ShamelessPlug #ThisLadyNeedsToGetPaid #NotSureWhyThisIsGettingPublished #IHateHashtags. Despite the glamorous look of writing little-known novels and humor titles while teaching at a technical college, I do not yet possess money, power and gloryyyyyyy. Help a sister out and at least recommend the book to someone. As a friend of mine who is a really excellent writer recently told me, he thought the original Smile book would be cheesy and embarrassing by proxy, but he read it and actually found it rather funny. So there. I got that goin’ for me.

I may be angry, but I still love you all.


One comment on “don’t look back in anger 

  1. Ellen Berman says:

    Yes. Let your voice be heard! I love your writing — and it is very clear that you have that deep-seated need to write, to communicate, to tell others about your world. I like your world. And one day I hope my voice, too, will be heard by many, many more people. Writers unite! (P.S. Just gave my 20-something daughter DRIFTWOOD to read, but alas, she prefers to keep her nose buried in her cell phone most of the time. Why do millenials find it so challenging to read???


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