Jeannine Hall Gailey


“He keeps telling me you, you've got time, but I don't believe him.” Liz Phair, "Polyester Bride."

Time is limited. What are you going to do with it?

Say once you imagined yourself living in New York City, in a fancy apartment drinking champagne and talking about art. But you grew up in the Midwest and could only afford to go to the crappy State college your father worked at.  There’s no time to complain. Get yourself to the airport. Check out some other states, some with glittering oceans, some with white-faced museums, others will history-laden streets filled with statues of men on horses. Time to move on.

Say once you imagined a family, regular-sized, like a Happy Meal™: two children, two adults. Say later you found out you couldn't have children. You will have a lot of extra time. It is good if you are interested in something time-consuming, like canning your own vegetables or writing. If you have children, that takes away years of your time. If you do not, all that time shouldn't be wasted.

Say you take up writing. You are determined not to be one of those sad literary young women, stunted by insecurity or overbearing artistic male love interests who take over their work. When you go to class with your male professors, refuse to be cowed. Speak up. Stand out. This may make you popular or unpopular; it probably depends on how you wear your hair, how short your skirts. Not too much lipstick; just enough. Then you will be called a feminist, but it'll be okay. You'll still be taken to parties where the men try to get you drunk. Refuse to get drunk. It’s not artistic, but it'll save you a lot of time spinning around parking lots and bars that smell like urine.

"You said you needed time and you've had time," Ani DiFranco, "You Had Time"

Say you get married, you get attached, you get dependent. Don't let the man tell you what to do. Keep your own bank account; your mother taught you that. Let him do the grocery shopping AND the cooking and refuse to feel guilty. This will free up a lot of time. If he has a career, don't think too much about it. Your career is writing. It’s important though it pays almost nothing, in fact, if you factor in stamps and student loans, it’s a negative balance.

Say you get sick a lot. You spend a lot of time in doctor’s offices, then in emergency rooms. Learn the names of all the medicines they give you and all their side effects. Don't trust anything they tell you. Particularly do not trust the nurses; everything they put in your IV is poison. It’s a good thing you didn't plan to be anything but a writer, anything you had to go into work every day from nine to five, standing up, not coughing, not running a fever, not bleeding uncontrollably, not having liver failure, not breaking bones. Maybe you have MS, or lupus, or one of those fancy bleeding disorders like the Romanov children. Think of Robert Louis Stevenson. Think of sickly authors who pretended not to be sickly like Jane Austen. Wasn't she dead at forty? She didn't have much time. You wonder if she knew that, you wonder if she was desperate to finish one more book, like sometimes you are, writing into the dark, just one more page, just one more query to a publisher, just one more success before you give in. You take a lot of medicines that were not available to Jane Austen, plus you've never nursed any siblings through tuberculosis, so extra minutes to you for that.

Say you make a circle of friends. Many of these friends are writers. They're not the kind you imagine in your childhood; for instance, many of them drink herbal tea instead of champagne and instead of tuxedoes, they might be wearing vintage skirts with clogs. But you get together in your non-fancy apartment and talk about books. In this picture you are happy; say your best friend’s book has just come out, you have a book contract of your own for the first time. You still have good boobs and good skin, even though you are nearly forty, which is important and for which you are thankful, because a lot of magazines want to print pictures alongside your writing. Right now, you are not worried about time. Time has stopped putting pressure on you. Right now, you can breathe.

Jeannine Hall Gailey is a robot scientist's daughter. She came to the Northwest to program computers but decided to write poetry instead. She betrays her geek roots by writing poems about comic books and anime characters.