Michelle Tea, celebrated San Francisco author and former prostitute, tells us about her spirituality, her feelings about judgment and how she deals with issues of class.
What do you consider to be the guiding principles or philosophy that has led you to your current position in life? Who did you learn it from? To pursue what feels meaningful and fun, and trust that it will bring me exactly what I’m supposed to have, to not compete with other people and to treat people how I want to be treated. I think I learned that last one in Catholic school. It’s the only thing that stuck!
Do you consider yourself a spiritual person? If so, what religion or philosophy or set of beliefs guide your spirituality? I’m pretty spiritual. I just believe there’s a lot more going on than we’re aware of, and I try to remember that I have no control of anything, and that it’s all going down as it should. I’m very drawn to Buddhist practices, they really resonate and feel true to me.
You grew up poor, working-class, but I’d imagine your literary success now puts you up close and personal with a fair share of the upper-crust community. How do you balance these two worlds? I don’t feel as if I’m balancing two worlds. I feel really comfortable moving around the entire world and all its different scenes and cliques and environments. I used to have a lot of hurt and anger around class stuff, but I’ve dealt with it, and I get to communicate with a wider percentage of the population because of it. I just want for people to recognize their privilege and the causes and effects of it.
Is it easier to judge or not judge? When do you feel comfortable passing absolute judgment? Definitely easier for me not to judge. But I do judge people who are really judge-y, or are hateful toward people they don’t know, or snobbish. Which I guess means judge-y, hateful, snobbish people make me insecure, because I can’t just let them be who they are.
What is the best lesson you’ve ever learned? The hardest? Is there anything that you regret? I think understanding the impermanence of all things in life is an ongoing and difficult lesson. I truly don’t think I regret anything.
If you stole something, but used the object (or say money) for good things, is the stealing part a crime? I think that sort of thing is really relative. I’ve stolen a lot in my life, and only feel bad about a few instances.
What would you want most to hear your colleagues at work say about you? That I’m pretty.