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The Fullness of Friendship
It’s been nearly a full year now, and, yes, there are still boxes in the attic that need to be unpacked. Did I mention this year’s been a little rough? Sorting through old papers, deciding what to keep, and where to put everything hasn’t been high on my list. Also, it is all in the attic. As lovely as that room is right now, it was not fun in winter, so I just didn’t go up there.
Today, I started that project. I need about three more bookselves, but I should be able get some order established up there. Right now, though, it’s an even bigger mess than it was – in that, worse before it gets better, phase. The former class evaluations, course syllabi, and conference programs got boring, so I let myself get lost in some boxes of stuff.
Not only did I find the sappy stuff from our dating months, I found a shoe box full of cards and letters from before I got married. It was fun to look through those old postcards and letters. To see the nice good luck cards, from the places I worked before going back to school, moving from Mankato, or moving into teaching in Greensboro. Apparently, I had a quite extensive correspondence with my old dorm RA. Not the floor person, but the girl who was in charge of our whole wing. We’d not spent a lot of time together on campus, at least not that I remember, but we maintained a good long relationship through writing. At least, I hope I was as good a correspondent as she was!
As I mentioned it’s been a rough year, and I don’t expect that to change any time soon. The highlight of this year, however, has been maintaining and creating friendships. My postcard exchange with Ouiser has been epic. The phone calls, random presents, , chats and all the other ways friends stayed in touch helped me through my truly big move in thirteen years. Playing trivia, weekly lunches, twitter conversations, and all the other ways I’ve managed to make new friends here helped me through my first real winter in just as long.
Reading through my box of long lost post cards, letters, and theatre memorabilia, it was comforting to be reminded of how blessed I have been to make good friends in all my travels. There was at least one letter, postcard, or note from a friend during each major change in my life. Though I’m not in contact with everyone I found in my box of treasures, I’m proud of how many of those people I remain acquainted with, and especially proud of how many of those people are still important parts of my life.
I even brought a few of my old postcards down to include on my new postcard board. Though Ouiser still dominates this board, I’m happy to include some of my old jems from the Advice Monkey as well. Whatever the rest of this year brings me, I am glad to have had this moment to remember that whatever else, my life has been rich in friendship.
This still matters
Periodically Ouiser sends me articles from Greensboro about things she know will interest me. One of the stories I’m nearly always happy to get an update about is update about Deborah Moy. Nearly always. I was not happy to hear that the man accused of her attack was release. Also, the updates written by Brian Clarey tend to get mixed reviews from me.
In 2009, shortly after the September 2008 attack, I wrote a piece for Shakesville, posted under the title “This Stuff Matters” about the media coverage of this case, and specifically Clarey’s treatment of it. You can find details of the case there. Yes, having a piece at Shakesville, feels as good as being a PhD now, instead of a PhD in Training as I called myself. Even if re-reading it today makes me want to edit it one more time.
Clarey’s updates receive mixed reviews from me, because on the one hand, as Ousier points out, he is the only one who still covers the story. At the same time the lens and tone of his coverage is always off. Like Clarey, I was drawn to this case, and am still haunted by it, because of a personal connection. The DH had worked with Moy, and remained friends/acquaintances with her. His profound dismay when he called to tell me about the incident, coupled with my own horror as I heard about it etched this story into me. Little did the DH and I know, when we heard of the mid-September attack on Moy, that I was also just three weeks away from our own life changing event.
As I’ve written about before, on October 4, 2008 I had a stroke. I spent the next three weeks in the hospital recovering. One of the effects of the stroke was that it took me a very long time to begin to accurately remember the days and weeks leading up to the event. I could remember my 35th birthday on September 2nd, mostly because I was sick with the flu/cold I unconsciously associate with the beginning of my stroke time. I could also remember the doctor’s visits when I complained about the pain in my neck, which I assumed was from coughing and working at the computer. Yep, I was wrong about that! The attack on Moy was one of the few, not health related, things I remember from that month, and I remembered it fairly quickly. There are really no facile comparisons to make between our recoveries, and I would insult her determination and fortitude trying to make one. Linked by one degree of separation and some traumatic associations, Deborah Moy and her story were simply never far from my mind.
At first, my outrage and anger at the way her story was represented (read the Shakesville article then dial up the outrage by about 1000) kept me seeking out stories and updates. Hoping beyond hope to find a story that acknowledged the horror of her attack and humanized her, I searched. These days, as happy as I am to find Clarey’s periodic updates, I’m still searching for an article that treats Deborah Moy as a human; one that doesn’t fall into sad gender traps, valorize the author’s story over her own, or verge on the cusp of inspiration porn.
This morning, when I received the article link from Ouiser, I started reading without looking at the by line. By the time I got to the following paragraphs, I scrolled back up to confirm that it was Clarey’s byline.
I didn’t really know Deb back then except as another face at the bar, but I identified with her as a member of my tribe: the floundering artists, service-industry lifers, lifestyle drinkers and other assorted stripes of the creative underclass. And it pissed me off that no one was doing anything about it. So of course, I did.
All I had to go on were several disconnected threads, snippets gleaned over nights at the bar and in after-hours apartments.
I had to stop. As I pointed out in detail in my piece for Shakesville, the problem with Clarey’s early reporting was precisely that he did not present Moy as “a part of [his] tribe.” The problem continues in this new piece. The piece verges on inspiration porn praising Moy’s spirit, perseverance, and determination, while valorizing her character and never really letting us get to know her.
You know what, if that is the story she wants told I’d be all for it, because it is inspirational to me. Clarey, however, never lets us forget that this story is really all about him, “… no one was doing anything about it. So of course, I did.” Later in the article, after discussing the police failure to solve the case, “I never thought I would solve this crime — and I have never come close — but even now, in preparing to write this story, I start picking at threads. Chasing ghosts.” Intentionally or not, in his updates Clarey re-writes the story to be one of his own heroic reporting. He follows the story no one else will; he maintains his connection. Moy becomes a part of his tribe, but only in her perseverance, which is also his own.
Look I get this, to a certain extent, is “Bart’s People” reporting, and that Clarey is following the tropes of the genre, which including inserting himself into the story. I’ve done a similar thing here explaining why I continue to follow this case. To me, however, this story has always been more. It’s a reflection of how we treat victims, and especially women, when telling their stories. I don’t want the tropes, the party girl, the girl who loves her dog and drinks her milk, the survivor who overcame. I want Deborah’s story told with respect for her as a human being. The one that is hard to tell because it is all those things and more. Clarey tries, but never quite gets there.