Diana Kirk’s book, “Licking Flames: Tales of a Half-Assed Hussy,” is a personal, irreverent collection of essays about family, travel, sex, adventure and poking fun at everyday hypocrisy.
Kirk, a new Astoria resident, has been published in The Progressive and has a regular column on “The Psychology of It” and “Five:2:One,” a literary magazine.
Eager to learn more, Coast Weekend sat down with Kirk for a chat. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Coast Weekend: How would you describe your book?
Diana Kirk: I consider it a book of personal essays with a feminist twist. An intentional part of the book was showing a girl/woman making her own choices. I would describe it as a memoir of parts of my life, where epiphanies happened and moments in time clashed together, and there was either a learning experience on my own or I grew in some way.
CW: So what is a “half-assed hussy?”
DK: I often ask people what they think a hussy is. The word “hussy” comes from the German word “house,” meaning “wife.” Hussy was like “little wife,” which has a connotation of a loud-mouthed little wife.
I love the word because we often turn women who speak loudly into whores. I love the word because it’s used incorrectly from what it originally was. And “half-assed” is because I’m kind of half-assed about a lot of things. Even me being a loud-mouth: I’m not the most loud-mouthed.
CW: What makes it easy for you to talk about things people don’t always talk about?
DK: My mom was really social and allowed me freedom to be around adults. I grew up in this world of adults that allowed me to speak my mind. That fostered this ability to be very confident. I’m sometimes wrong in arguments, but I’m not broken by being wrong; I like to learn from them. I want to talk about all subjects, and I’m curious about people’s responses. I’m often quite surprised at their reactions, that they’re more scared to speak their minds, especially women. If I can be the woman who speaks up, maybe they’ll see that you don’t die from your words.
CW: You recently had a class you were going to teach, “How to Write Like a Bad-Ass Woman,” canceled for you not being the “correct” description of a “bad-ass woman.” (They defined it as “vulnerable and compassionate.”) How do you describe a “bad-ass woman?”
DK: I think any woman who isn’t scared of the repercussions of what she says. We’ve been silenced for so long, and I think this is a brave new world that we’re in now, where women are speaking up, but we kind of still don’t know what that means. Even I’m not sure I would describe a bad-ass woman as anything in particular.
I am a real estate investor by day, and I have a lot of respect for women entrepreneurs because I know how hard it is to run your own business. My business is all men, top to bottom; every person I work with is a man. I can handle that most of the time, but I have a lot of respect for (women) who have perseverance, who just keep going.
Maybe my description of a bad-ass woman would be a woman who keeps going — who doesn’t become bitter from all the outside influences that are always trying to change you, or put you in a box of what society expects. Maybe a female boss or a stay-at-home mom. I was a stay-at-home mom for ten years, and it drove me crazy. I don’t bake cookies. I don’t finger paint. I was surrounded by all these women who were constantly trying to organize me into being this idea of being a stay-at-home mom. I loved being a “stay-at-home mom” so I had the freedom to go do anything I wanted and my kids could come with me. Be who you are. Don’t change because society expects you to act a certain way.
CW: You talk about when “s– gets real” as some of the funniest parts of life. Why is that?
DK: Because you’re humbled with the mistakes that you’ve made, or the realization that you’re a hypocritical fool. When s– gets real is when you have those confrontations where you’re trying to speak your opinion, and maybe you’re wrong or you’re right, but you’re trying to be authentic. Even in my personal hypocrisy, I’m trying to admit it out loud and be like, “You can’t put statistics about global warming on your social media site and then drive your car every day to work.” We have to admit out loud that we are all flawed.
CW: You wrote an essay about meeting your husband in Cannon Beach in the 90’s?
DK: It is a really nice story, and it’s movie-worthy because it’s pretty rad.
I was going to school in California, and my husband was going to U of O. He would go to Cannon Beach during the summer because he had friends that worked for a landscaping company.
There were help-wanted signs all around town, and being young and in college, we thought, “We’ll just get a job here.” We had no idea that you can’t find anywhere to stay during summer. My friends and I were living in her Volkswagen van in town, and every night the cops would wake us up and kick us out. One night, the cop was like, ‘Hey there’s a pull-out outside of town you can park at, outside of city limits.” We never had showers, so we’d go to the public restrooms and dump cold water over our heads. There were groups of college-aged people around town doing this.
There was this one other van I walked up to one day, and my husband was in it cooking. His van was super set up; ours was lame. I was really impressed with his van and his cool set-up. So I got to know him that summer. He flew kites on the beach for Once Upon A Breeze. That was his job, flying 12 to 15 kites at once, wearing a t-shirt from the kite shop. I’d sit down a chair on the beach and watch him. I crushed from afar; that’s how ridiculous I was.
We both went back to college at the end of the summer but would write letters. We had a missed moment in Cannon Beach. But it was three years later, I was hitchhiking with a friend in Washington, and he pulled over and picked me up. And I was like, “Oh my God, this is trouble.”