So, in the middle of Attachments, Beth goes on a little rant about how much she loves October . . .
“October, at last! Callooh! Callay!”
This is probably the most self-indulgent thing I’ve ever managed to get into a book. (Though Beth and Jennifer gave me plenty of opportunities to get on my soapbox . . . Bridesmaid dresses! Superman! Rum and Diet Coke!)
Beth’s love of October is 100 percent my love of October — I totally used her to get all flaky and rhapsodic about fall, even though it did nothing to advance the plot of the book.
“No matter how bad everything else is, there’s still October.”
You can’t even imagine how happy it made me when people started telling me that they loved this chapter. (My brain took it as an invitation to be even more self-indulgent in future books.) Last October, when people sent me notes wishing me “Merry October” and quoting from the book, I was like, I’VE FOUND MY PEOPLE!
So, to celebrate today, the first day of the best month, and to celebrate finding my people, I thought I’d post the October chapter fromAttachments. (There’s more than just October here. There’s also some silliness about motherhood and some Beth/boyfriend angst.)
“O autumn! O teakettle! O grace!”
From: Beth Fremont
To: Jennifer Scribner-Snyder
Sent: Thurs, 10/14/1999 11:09 AM
Subject: October, at last!
<<Jennifer to Beth>> At last? October is half over. And what’s in October anyway?
<<Beth to Jennifer>> Not “what’s in,” what is. October. My favorite month. Which, by the way, has only half begun.
Some find it melancholy. “October,” Bono sings, “and the trees are stripped bare . . .”
Not I. There’s a chill in the air that lifts my heart and makes my hair stand on end. Every moment feels meant for me. In October, I’m the star of my own movie—I hear the soundtrack in my head (right now, it’s “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”)—and I have faith in my own rising action.
I was born in February, but I come alive in October.
<<Jennifer to Beth>> You’re a nut.
<<Beth to Jennifer>> A hazelnut. A filbert.
October, baptize me with leaves! Swaddle me in corduroy and nurse me with split pea soup. October, tuck tiny candy bars in my pockets and carve my smile into a thousand pumpkins.
O autumn! O teakettle! O grace!
<<Jennifer to Beth>> I do love tiny candy bars.
<<Beth to Jennifer>> Merry October!
<<Jennifer to Beth>> All right, Merry October! Why not?
Are there other factors in your unreasonably good mood? Non-autumnal reasons?
<<Beth to Jennifer>> Nope, I don’t think so. I had a really crappy night last night—I went to a Sacajawea party with Chris—but I think that’s actually enhancing my good mood today. I woke up thinking about how, no matter how bad everything else is, there’s still October.
<<Jennifer to Beth>> Who has a party on a Wednesday night?
<<Beth to Jennifer>> Musicians.
<<Jennifer to Beth>> Don’t most of them have day jobs?
<<Beth to Jennifer>> Their day jobs are night jobs. (Sometimes late-afternoon jobs.) Only the girlfriends have to get up in the morning, and mentioning that you have to get up—that you really shouldn’t be partying on a school night, so to speak—is band-girlfriend blasphemy.
<<Jennifer to Beth>> What happens to blasphemers?
<<Beth to Jennifer>> As soon as you leave, dragging your man with you or not, every other lord reaches for his lady and thanks her for not being such a killjoy. She, in turn, feels special and loved and goes to work the next morning haggard, headachy and wearing a guitar pick around her neck like an albatross.
<<Jennifer to Beth>> Are you a killjoy?
<<Beth to Jennifer>> Oh, the worst. A killjoy of mythic proportions. For starters, I won’t let them party at my apartment. And I leave all their parties early, by midnight. I’ve stopped pretending that staying up all night, smoking, and drinking have no effect on my body.
It wouldn’t be any better if I stayed. You’re not allowed to politely not partake in their debauchery. That’s as good as passing judgment.
Last night was especially bad. Stef got all up in my face. He was high, and I think he was trying to impress some girl he picked up at a show.
“Beth . . . ,” he said, “why don’t you have fun anymore?”
I ignored him, which he couldn’t let stand. “I’m serious, Beth, you’ve changed. You used to be cool.”
“I haven’t changed. I was never cool.”
“You were. When Chris started bringing you around, the rest of us were jealous. You had that hair down to your waist and your tight Hüsker Dü T-shirts, and you’d get wasted and stay up all night rewriting our choruses.”
He’s vile in so many ways:
1. Implying that he ever liked me.
2. Reminding me how he used to stare at my breasts.
3. Making me scramble to insult him in a way that won’t insult Chris. I mean, I can’t say, “I’m an adult now” or, “There’s nothing to rewrite, you’ve been playing the same songs for six years . . .”
So I said, “Give it a rest, Stef, I’m tired.”
Then he got all fake-sympathetic and suggested that I go home so I would be all rested up for work in the morning. I told him that movie reviewers never go to work before noon. Union rules.
“I think that’s what changed you, Beth. Your job. The film critic. Critics are parasites. They live off other people’s creativity. They bring nothing into this world. They’re like barren women who steal other people’s babies in grocery store parking lots. Those who can’t do, teach, and those who can’t teach, criticize.”
Just when he’d settled into a fine rant, one of the other guys decided to cut him off—“Hey, Chris, aren’t you going to defend your girlfriend?”
And Chris said, “Beth doesn’t need my help defending herself. Trust me. She’s a Valkyrie.”
Which sort of made me feel good. That he loves me strong and independent. But also, I would like some defending. And also, don’t Valkyries steal the souls of fallen warriors? Or maybe just escort them to heaven or Valhalla or wherever? Either way, it doesn’t make me a warrior. Maybe a Valkyrie is just another parasite, reflecting the glory of the souls she claims. I don’t know, it’s not what I wanted him to say.
I wanted him to say . . . “Fuck off, Stef.”
Or, “Beth is not a barnacle on my boat. She’s the wind beneath my wings. And, without her, films like Armageddon and I Still Know What You Did Last Summer would claim scores of innocent victims, our friends and neighbors. Hers is important work, creative work.”
Or, “That’s it, I quit this stupid band. I’m going back to school. I’ve always wanted to be a dentist.”
<<Jennifer to Beth>> A dentist? Really, a dentist?
If Chris went back to school to become a dentist, I think you would dump him.
<<Beth to Jennifer>> I would not!
<<Jennifer to Beth>> I just can’t picture you married to a dentist, somebody who wears sensible shoes and always smells like fluoride treatment.
<<Beth to Jennifer>> I can . . . He’d have a comfy little neighborhood dental practice with back issues of Guitar World in the waiting room. I would stop in to see him some afternoons, and he’d pull down his white mask to kiss me hello. The kids would fight over a set of giant teeth, and his nice, grandmotherly dental assistant would give them each a sugar-free lollipop . . .
<<Jennifer to Beth>> Wait a minute, the kids?
<<Beth to Jennifer>> You bet. A boy and a girl. Twins maybe. With his curly hair and my grade point average.
<<Jennifer to Beth>> What about your job?
<<Beth to Jennifer>> Are you kidding? I’m married to a dentist.
<<Jennifer to Beth>> Does this dental fantasy of yours take place in, like, 1973?
<<Beth to Jennifer>> I’ve always thought I would stay home when my kids were young. If I have kids. If I can afford it. My mom stayed home with us, and we turned out all right. I think I could handle being a stay-at-home mom for a few years.
<<Jennifer to Beth>> Hmmm . . . I think I’d like to be a stay-at-home mom with no kids.
<<Beth to Jennifer>> You mean, you just want to stay home?
<<Jennifer to Beth>> And do stay-at-home-mom stuff. Bake. Do crafts.
<<Beth to Jennifer>> What kind of crafts?
<<Jennifer to Beth>> I could crochet sweaters and make elaborate scrapbooks. I could buy one of those hot-glue guns.
<<Beth to Jennifer>> If our foremothers could hear us, they would regret winning the sexual revolution.
<<Jennifer to Beth>> My mother didn’t fight in the sexual revolution. She’s not even aware it happened. My dad left 20 years ago, and she still goes on and on about The Man being the head of the household.
<<Beth to Jennifer>> So you grew up in a headless household?
<<Jennifer to Beth>> Exactly. With my mother, the housewife without a husband.
<<Beth to Jennifer>> Your mother is depressing. I’m going back to my dentist fantasy.
<<Jennifer to Beth>> And I’m going back to work.
<<Beth to Jennifer>> Killjoy.