Intersections – All the wrongsNicki Salcedo
By Nicki Salcedo, Contributor
My first mistake was going to the prom, but I didn’t know this until years later.
During my first two years of college, I read literature. Only literature. I promise you that I can quote from Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.” I promise you that I’ve clutched the pages of Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” to my chest. I read everything they told me to read.
Eventually, I learned to debate with my English professors. I liked romance novels. These were frowned upon. I liked Westerns. If you want to know about true isolation and anarchy, you don’t have to read stories of the dystopian future. You can read about the Wild West. And I liked “Star Trek.” If you want to understand the failings and idiosyncrasies of our current society read science fiction.
I argued with my teachers that Thomas Hardy and Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote the exact same formula as a Harlequin Romance novel, except Hardy and Hawthorne killed everyone at the end of their books and that made it literature.
By my Junior year of college, I had a chance to take a science fiction writing class. I was excited. These were my people. The writing nerds.
The professors were on loan from campuses across the Bay. UC Davis and Berkeley. The first had won a Hugo Award. The other would later have a book picked by Oprah’s Book Club. I wanted to be a novelist and this class was going to help me become a better writer.
It was small writing workshop, and we sat around a large boardroom table. The professors started the first class with a simple question. I’ll ask you all the same question right now.
“Who in this room went to the prom? Raise your hand.”
I raised mine.
I looked around the room and my lone hand defied the gravity of the earth and floated in the air.
The teachers smiled at each other across the long table, and they announced, “No successful writer ever went to the prom.”
This made the other students straighten their spines, but I felt my body also straighten. I’d become used to fighting for all the wrong things. I kept my hand up for a moment longer than needed, so they would all see me. Being wrong is something I’m exceptionally good at.
“I didn’t go to the Prom,” I said as my hand fell. “I went to three.”
With three different boys. And if we were keeping track, which suddenly I was for the sake of my literary future, I also went to three Homecomings. With three different boys.
Six dates and six dances in my lousy high school years that really weren’t that lousy.
There is the cliché of The Prom Queen. There is the cliché of those who boycott prom. There wasn’t a cliché for the awkward girl like me who decided at the age of 15 that she was going to be a writer and she was also going to be a long list of other things. But she wasn’t going to be the kind of woman writer who put her head in the oven or walked into a river with rocks in her pockets.
My first mistake was going to the prom. But it wasn’t my last mistake.
I still love romance novels. Even though I’ve always believed in love, I’ve never worried about it. For the record, there is a half-dressed Duke sitting on my nightstand right now. I like zombies and werewolves and aliens and robots. Still. I got my first cowboy hat in Vegas this past January. I don’t know how I lived my whole life without one.
I am wrong about so many things.
I don’t really like kids. This explains why I have four.
Shouldn’t be a mom and work. So of course I have a job.
You can’t have a job and kids and be a writer. Ok, let’s do that too.
Don’t sing in church with your tongue pierced. Yup. I did that.
Don’t go to bed angry. I do that.
Never wear pearls. Check.
I am wrong all the time. I’m guilty of looking for happiness. This is wrong. When I see the news and the world crumbling down around me, I create happiness for myself. It is not the same as being happy, but some days that has to be enough.
I went to the prom a hundred years ago. While my friends were in sleek black sequined dresses, I wore a pink and white striped satin antebellum ball gown. It had a hoop crinoline underneath, and I wore white satin gloves on my hands. It was wrong. Very wrong. And I am still proud of it. At the very least it gave me something to write about.
This piece was first performed live as part of the Bleux Stocking Society’s Volume 3. The Bleux Stockings Society is a reading and performance series in Atlanta, Georgia.
Intersections,” the book, is a collection of columns from Decaturish.com and beyond. It is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom. Her column, Intersections, runs every Wednesday morning.