I’m working on the final proofs of my novel The Reality Traveler, which will be available in print soon, and this version doesn’t have the phrase ‘MeToo’ in it anymore. It’s been in there since the very first draft 13 years ago (you can read more about it here), but in the past year The Gods decided it means something new.
I wanted to hold on to it, because I’d been using the phrase as the slogan for my poetic mission for so long, and I’d grown pretty attached. But at some point I could no longer deny it would create an unnecessary barrier between me and my audience.
My brother told me he showed the manuscript to a writer friend of his, and her first thought was ‘why is he writing about the women’s movement?’ and then she wouldn’t read any further.
Then I saw this sketch on the Michelle Wolf show in which she’s on a date and casually using “me too” to agree with them in conversation and other people in the restaurant come rushing to her aid because they think it means she’s being assaulted.
It was getting to the point I was afraid of releasing the novel into the world because of the inevitable misunderstandings it would cause. And there’s no point of releasing anything if it’s surrounded by such fear. Although self-doubt is natural, if you can’t connect more with the joy of it then I don’t believe it will have the necessary energy to find the people for whom it may benefit.
I spent an extraordinary amount of time and effort on this manuscript trying to get just the right words that would clearly and effectively deliver my message – a satire of self-mythology that at the same time says something genuine about the value of connecting with others, especially those who seem different. Connotation mattered with every other word I chose, and I hadta ask myself if I were just starting the novel today would I use the term ‘MeToo.’ The answer was hell no. Just like I wouldn’t use the word ‘gay’ to only mean happy. Or I wouldn’t use any other words that were suddenly synonymous with justice for sexual assault victims.
I acknowledge my male privilege on this matter, and me not being able to use certain terminology doesn’t compare to the risks and suffering others face that led to the #metoo movement. Nevertheless, the whole thing’s been pretty personally distressing, and I asked my brother what he thought was the lesson I’m supposta learn out of all of this.
“To prove you’re a good enough writer to adapt and come up with a new phrase,” he said.
It didn’t make me any less frustrated, but it made sense, and I buckled down and focused and came up with a lot of different alternatives that might work, and, tho none at first felt quite as right a ‘MeToo’ used to, I settled on the term ‘Me&You.’
It can be seen as shorthand for the similar expression “me and you, both.”
And when standing on its own, (and I use it as noun, verb, and adjective) it still feels like the quirky and fresh vocabulary I’m going for.
And perhaps, when smushed together no-spaces like that, it could even represent the negative-capability within the spiritual concept of nondualism, in which we are at the same time separate but also one.
The more I think about it, maybe I like the term even better. When we say “me too” it’s really just a step toward the goal of achieving this greater moment of Me&You, right?
Anyway, I write this all for a couple reasons. One, I suppose, is to get the word out that the book is coming. But the other, I think, is to offer something to other writers out there.
While I’ve spent much of my writing career worrying about ego-bullshit like growing my audience, achieving recognition, or even earning enough money from it that I would never hafta work any other job ever again, it now seems like my whole journey with writing is really just a big spiritual lesson in letting go.
I not only hafta let go of my catch-phrase, but as a book first started by and written to be loved by the 24 yo me, I find myself continually having to let go of that person and era which are increasingly fading into the past. (For instance the book’s The Great List of Old Songs was just a couple drafts ago simply The Great List of Songs.)
But most importantly I hafta let go of the idea that this book needs to have, deserves to have, or will have any typical measure of outside validation. At the least, this was a project to understand and soothe myself, and that’s alright. I’m proud of my work, but I can’t attach to any outcome beyond that, whether wildly successful or totally doomed.
Hopefully tho if you do read the book you will find some value in it. Maybe it’s relatable, or offers a new way of looking at things, or even just allows you to briefly escape into someone else’s mind and experiences. Maybe it will lead us to have some Me&You moments. The possibility of, not the attachment to, this allows me to finally feel a joy in releasing The Reality Traveler into the world!