Ya’ll, I am obsessed with prison, which is weird, right? It’s not like I have aspirations of ever spending time there. The last time I visited a prison I was seven months pregnant with Sadie and got a pat down from an androgynous guard that made me blush. I was visiting a client in a rural Illinois prison– and because pregnant women have to go to the bathroom all the time, I used 4 different toilets in Pontiac Prison before my visit was over. I’ve seen a lot of sorry excuses for bathrooms (see train station in Siena, Italy where the “bathroom” was really a hole in the dirt that I paid lots of lira to use), but the prison bathrooms were so cold that icicles formed on my backside while I was squatting.
In Sadie’s baby book, there’s a section called “Places I’ve Been,” and I memorialized her in utero trip to the prison because who doesn’t want to know she went to the clink while in the comfort of her mother’s womb?
I’m a woman who’s always had enthusiasms– little bursts of interest or obsession that occupy my time, eventually fading away until a new one dominates my thoughts. Through the years, there’s been the stigmata (don’t ask; it was a Catholic school thing), Baryshnikov, Words With Friends– normal enough stuff that was appropriate for my age and demographic. But prisons? How can I explain that?
In my Facebook feed this summer I saw people raving about the show Orange Is The New Black, but decided to first read the book by Piper Kerman before diving into the series. Holy shackles on a stick, I couldn’t put it down, which wasn’t helping to quell this latest obsession.
My recent saturation in all things prison-ish reminds me of my very first business idea after I got my Master’s degree. Fresh from the exhilaration of falling in love with books and bonding with colleagues during seminar classes, I wanted to create that experience with incarcerated women. My plan was to set up book clubs in all the prisons on the theory that (1) everyone loves to read, (2) reading creates and coheres communities, and (3) it would instill a love of literature in prison inmates, which in turn would magically keep them out of trouble in prison and off the streets down the road. No one ever has thought that would be a great idea, but I still hold out hope that one day after I earn millions in a 100% legal enterprise, I can launch my Bookclubs For Bitches Behind Bars program and change the world.
In the meantime, it’s getting tricky to explain the lyrics of Folsom Prison Blues to Simon who wants to know where Reno is and why someone would kill a man to watch him die. Good question, Son, remember Mommy is a pacifist. I need to either tone it down or channel this into something more palatable for my young children who are growing tired of Mommy’s prison tunes. What do you mean you guys are sick of hearing Cell Block Tango? I need a new obsession– something lighter and more wholesome. Something that has accompanying tunes that affirm life.
Does anyone know any songs about scrapbooking?