An unconventional literary self-portrait examining the relationships that shaped a writer’s identity.
Essayist Dieterich (thxthxthx: Thank Goodness for Everything, 2011) fully embraces the art of introspection in this unique memoir. Her prose, dispatched in pagelong ruminations, establishes thought-provoking connections among the multifaceted dynamics of twinning, fetal “vanishing twin syndrome,” and the author’s physical attractions. As a young ballet student, Dieterich watched herself on walls of mirrors, drawing close to fellow classmate Giselle in third grade. As teenagers, however, she was abruptly abandoned after Giselle acquired a boyfriend, lost her virginity, and broke the “comforting symmetry that had always made our friendship seem predestined.” The author admits to harboring a “terror of being alone,” so pursuing attachments she wasn’t entirely certain would prove successful came easily. She chronicles intense emotional connections to female classmates throughout her college years, just one of several forks “in the road on my sexual map.” The author eventually settled into a rhythm with artist and architect Eric, with whom she dashed across the country to cultivate a marriage. As the couple slowly merged into what Dieterich deemed to be a single synergistic organism, the arrangement slowly regressed beneath the weight of her desire for varietal stimulation and discontent with the sameness of a consistent partner. An open arrangement allowed her to probe her emerging queer sexuality further with women, and, through the revolving door of nonmonogamy, the author escaped into the arms of Elena, a filmmaker who mirrored her passion. Dieterich artfully compares her former lovers of both sexes to the sensation of standing too close to a mirror, unable to focus on anything within the blur. In these poetically written episodes, the author ponders the nature of love, attraction, and identity through literature, pop culture, psychology, femininity, and the delicate nuances of being a “beautiful and controlled” ballerina.
Graceful snapshots of a life that lyrically coalesce into expressive declarations of identity and intimacy.