At my age I wonder why I would want to start over? At sixty-five, why do I think about finally writing that autobiography, the first assignment I would give playwriting students?
First off I haven’t looked at myself very thoroughly, not that I could do that honestly. Sure, I’ve written about what I know, written about my background, written plays and short stories about it. But as an autobiography, I have not explored myself enough to really know…I mean really…what is peculiar about me. I haven’t written enough to get beyond the superficial nor have I had the courage to delve into the contradictions that make me who I am. I haven’t been able to move past the censor inside me and put on paper what’s there. The perspective to look at my life from different angles: to look from the inside and the outside, I’ve lacked. I haven’t been detached enough. I’ve been too focused on publication.
If I can, I need to set aside my emotions, perhaps as in shame, the shame over stealing something, those dirty magazines from a drug store, more importantly my emotions about my dad’s reaction when he found them stuck under my mattress. It is the long-term implications of that incident that I should give myself permission to write about. But my father was obsessed over what our neighbors would think if they saw those pictures of naked women hanging on my bedroom wall. I remember the lecture he gave me. I can still hear it as I’ve heard time and time again the moral tone of his argument, exaggerated by ten by now: that as a Christian I should never masturbate. I remember him taking the magazines away, which taught me one thing: it didn’t pay to bring the crap home. I’ve had my mouth washed out with soap for swearing. Now I swear all the time, silently.
An assignment: write an autobiography: several different versions of every incident. Maybe it can take different forms, without paying attention to spelling or punctuation. Write it quickly. Make it long. Use an internal dialogue, stream consciousness, allow whatever happens happen. Look for those surprises. Symbols. Archetypes. A father who believed in spanking but couldn’t handle his kid without hurting his own hand. God, help him. God, forgive him for not being able to talk about sex.
Will I do it? I don’t know. Randy Ford