Once I got older and started act­ing out with men and tak­ing a lot of risks, mu­sic helped me ne­go­ti­ate the re­al­ity of what I was do­ing. — Marcia But­ler

Pasatiempo - - IN OTHER WORDS - Knee The Skin Above My

But­ler’s emo­tion­ally dis­tant mother may have in­flu­enced, by na­ture or nur­ture, her daugh­ter’s abil­ity to keep se­crets. Mrs. But­ler, who taught Latin at a lo­cal school, suf­fered from mi­graines and was un­able to make left-hand turns in the car. She spent her af­ter­noons alone in her bedroom and did not be­lieve in com­fort­ing her daugh­ters for any rea­son. But­ler’s older sis­ter, Jinx, was re­bel­lious from a young age. Ev­ery­one in the fam­ily be­lieved this was her par­tic­u­larly ob­jec­tion­able per­son­al­ity and prob­a­bly not a re­sult of be­ing reg­u­larly beaten up by her fa­ther. But­ler wit­nessed some of this as a kid and grew up think­ing Jinx had it worse than her. She never told her sis­ter about what their fa­ther did to her, nor did they dis­cuss what else he might have been do­ing to Jinx. When Jinx ran away from home for good, Mrs. But­ler saw it as an act of be­trayal against a loyal and lov­ing fam­ily.

In 2000, But­ler took a draft­ing class on a whim, which led to earn­ing a de­gree in in­te­rior de­sign and an even­tual ca­reer shift. As an in­te­rior de­signer, she started keep­ing a de­sign blog, though she had never writ­ten be­fore. She found her­self blog­ging more about her cre­ativ­ity than her busi­ness, which led to more ex­per­i­men­tal pieces about symbols and pat­terns in the uni­verse, which led to es­says about per­form­ing. It was at about this time she re­al­ized she was writ­ing a mem­oir about her life — both the mu­sic and her des­o­late child­hood of be­ing abused by one par­ent while be­ing ig­nored by the other. Though abuse is at the core of But­ler’s ex­is­tence,

is not re­ally an in­cest mem­oir. Nor it is a mu­sic au­to­bi­og­ra­phy — though those chap­ters pro­vide gor­geous and com­pelling respite, and the two strands twist around each other grace­fully to form the book’s foun­da­tion. The story’s true essence is But­ler’s per­va­sive, per­sis­tent long­ing for a mother who cares. She re­turns to the well again and again, look­ing for a lit­tle sup­port, if not sal­va­tion, but never finds it any­thing but bone-dry. One day, But­ler re­ceives a pack­age in the mail: her mother’s self-pub­lished mem­oir. In it, she dis­cusses her love of teach­ing and of knit­ting, but not of her daugh­ters. Nei­ther one ap­pears in the book.

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