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Monthly Archives: March 2009

So I’ve decided that as part of my new and spiffified organized life, I’m going to blog weekly. No more of this “creative spurt” business (hahahaha, Zachy, I’m turning into a girl!). So maybe I won’t always be brilliant, but there will always be something.

I had my senior piano recital yesterday. The only one of my friends who could come was darling Katie L, but that’s fine with me. It was kind of scary anyway. I wasn’t as nervous as when I did the Foreign Language Talent Show, and I also wasn’t as nervous as any of my fellow pianists. But it was so different from doing a regular recital with Ms. Queener or even like a school talent show. I suppose it was knowing that I was in front of people who knew what good piano playing sounds like- they all knew one of my classmates, or they wouldn’t have been there. I did all right though I thought.

It’s… strange to me to think of how so much of my life is ending. I’ve been going to piano lessons since I was five. I just basically did the biggest performance of my piano career, since I’m not going to pursue it as anything other than a hobby after this year. I might have a teacher in college, but I’ll never play piano professionally because I’m just not that good. It’s strange to think of all these “talents” that kids take lessons for and they take up so much of their lives- and when they leave home… some of them just don’t last. I remember meeting my cousin George’s wife and talking to her when I was in Florida in 8th grade, and I remember playing her piano. And she told me that she had taken lessons through her senior year of high school and she never touched the piano since. And it was totally inconceivable to me that I would ever be like that, but I know so many adults who did things in their childhoods and just never pursued them further. I also know many people who continue to do things they did as kids, like my uncle and his trombone and my aunt and her softball and Paul O and his tap-dancing, but I’ve noticed they don’t do everything they did as kids. They pretty much have time for one hobby, the rest of their time is spent working.

I know it’s strange for a seventeen year old to say this, but I just feel like there can’t possibly be enough time for everything I’d like to do. I would love to be a surgeon, I would love to work with cyclotrons, I would love to run for congress, I would love to be a singer, I would love to spend all my time restoring paintings or blowing up stuff or helping people get jobs or… everything. And that’s just careers. I think of the things I would like to do as an adult that don’t make money- I’d love to travel the world, maybe do a musical, get a bridge club like my grandma, throw awesome parties for my friends, go camping, learn some foreign languages, go to church every week, raise a couple kids in Alameda, play rugby into my forties, keep in touch with all my family and friends, do proper Christmas every year…

…so how the fuck am I going to have the time to retire and go to Tahoe for a couple months a year and read New Yorkers on the beach? I just think of that and it makes me feel so sad. That was what my dad was going to do, you see. Retire and sit on the beach at Tahoe, reading his New Yorkers. He kept all the ones he didn’t finish reading on time- so we have several boxes of them, dating back from the late eighties. And I just think, we all plan like we’re going to make it to ninety-three. Like we’re going to be able to enjoy everything just as much when we’re little old people as we can now.

Carefree youth. Maybe some people manage that. I wonder sometimes where mine went.

I tried a long time ago to write a blog post about The Sun Also Rises. I never published it, because it just wasn’t very good and it sounded pretty condescending, which is not how I meant it. But I feel like I can really explain Brett Ashley.

She’s not a slut- not by the definition below, anyway. She’s much like the heroine of The Barefoot Contessa– at some point in her life, she thought she had it all. She thought that she had found her one true love, that she could just spend the rest of her life making him happy, giving him kids, giving him her body, giving him everything. And she would have been so happy to do that. If Brett could have Jake, really, she would never look at anyone else. She says to him “When I think of the hell I’ve put chaps through. I’m paying for it all now.” She used to just play with the affections of men, using their libido to support her lifestyle and her ego. And then she met Jake and fell in love with him. And so her total and complete love just built up in her- she just wanted that life where he was her world. She just had all that physical energy for him. At some point his accident shattered her hopes and dreams for the perfect life. I know it’s not usual to say this, I know that usually guys use this as a cop-out for douche-bag behavior, but sometimes girls have Needs too. And Brett has no outlet for them. She can’t give absolutely everything to Jake because he can’t take it- he can’t satisfy her. But neither can any other man because she doesn’t love any other man. His injury killed not only his happiness, but hers as well. So she returns to the life she led before- seducing men because she can- but she can’t take any joy in it because she knows what she’s missing. Brett Ashley is “tired of living but scared of dying.” She’s only alive because she doesn’t want to die- she isn’t alive because she wants to live. She has nothing to live for, but she also has nothing to die for. She’s in a perpetual limbo of mere existance.

And that, ultimately, is really what I think about when I face mortality. I think of my endless possibilities for happiness and fulfillment and then I think of my infinite capacity for defeatism, and I think maybe I’ll end up like her. Maybe I’ll end up like Brett Ashley, or Maria Vargas, or any drunk on the streets, drinking because they don’t want to remember that they’re failing at living.

So that’s why I’m getting my ass organized. Maybe it’s more beautiful and smooth and free-flowing just living my life moment to moment, blogging when I feel like it… but maybe life isn’t about the beauty. Sadness is a beautiful, romantic thing to behold. Ultimately, though, I feel like beauty is such an intangible, fleeting thing, and at the end of the day, it’s just not worth it. Who says that the Mona Lisa is more valuable as a work of art than Mark Rothko’s Number 14? It’s beautiful, but maybe art isn’t all about beauty either. Maybe art is really about life. Why do we study the cave paintings at Altamira, anyway? Why do we study the art of the Egyptians? Is it because it’s beautiful? Isn’t it really because we want to know the painters?

I don’t know. Perhaps I overindulge my rambling tendency. God bless you, you just read over thirteen hundred words.

I think sometimes about the concept of sluttiness, and how it’s not really about how promiscuous or not you are. You can be a slut who hasn’t made it past 1st base, and you can be not-a-slut who’s slept with nine different guys because it’s not about your experience, it’s about your state of mind. A girl who isn’t a slut messes with a guy because she wants to; a slut messes with him because she wants him to like her. A girl who isn’t a slut wears a mini-skirt because she feels pretty in it; a slut wears a mini-skirt because she wants guys to like her. Sluts do things in order to make guys like them, and they treat all guys as if they’re the same- any one will do, as long as he’s cute or whatever. Girls who aren’t sluts want guys because they like them. I suppose the difference is the state of mind- sluts are desperate to get guys to like them so that they’ll feel better about themselves. If you don’t feel that way, you aren’t a slut. That’s my opinion anyway. On a related topic…

In AP Art History last summer, we discussed the difference between nudity and nakedness. It’s one of those things that makes sense when you see it and doesn’t really when you try to explain it in words. The explanations are nonsensical, but sometimes, it just “clicks”. Being naked is the state of being uncovered- being nude is the state of having no clothes. Nudes do not need to be covered, they don’t want to be covered, they are confident in their bare state. Naked people need clothes to cover themselves up, and are uncomfortable or piteous or self-conscious because they have none.

So I’ve been thinking about nakedness a lot lately (stop snickering, crackheads), and I’ve realized that there are a lot of forms of nakedness that don’t involve clothes. I realized that, although I’m just fine walking around school with almost no makeup, I would be more comfortable with a certain person with no clothes than no makeup.

And I thought of other things that make me self-conscious. I realized my dislike of dancing with the lights on is a deep-seated discomfort with exposing myself to ridicule. Dancing in the dark, you can sort of see people, but everyone looks cooler in the dark- we all look stupid with the lights on. And I thought of the thing that makes me feel more naked and open to exposure than anything else- singing at the top of my lungs. In front of people, I always give it some control, sometimes more than others, but I never just let my entire voice hang out there. I never sing with everything I have in front of people.

And I came to a conclusion. Nakedness is a fear of judgment. The good old Adam and Eve story- where they covered themselves up? Why would it matter that they were naked? They were lovers, weren’t they? But because they could judge between good and bad, they were afraid that the other one would look at their body and decide that it came up short. All of us can see the flaws in our bodies, and so we fear the judgment of someone whose opinion we value over all others; we fear that they will look upon us and decide that the flaws we see in ourselves outweigh our good qualities.

So why am I afraid for him to see me sans makeup? Because when I wash it off at night, I can see the flaws I covered up. I can see my beauty just swirling away, flushed right down the drain. And I look up, and there I am: just plain old Sally. And I’m afraid the way he thinks of me is better than the way I am.

Why am I afraid to sing my heart out in front of people? Because when I sing with everything I have, you can hear EVERYTHING. And what if I give you everything and you decide that my emotions are silly and stupid and you laugh in my face? What if I sing with everything I’ve got and you decide that everything I’ve got is BAD?

At the end of the day, that’s it really. I’m afraid of judgment. That’s what’s in my personal Room 101. I’m afraid that the people I love most in the world will judge me and they will decide that I’m bad. And of course, that’s how several people have managed to get so close to me- by not judging me. By loving me at the end of the day when I’ve confessed my most heinous sins to them.

I suppose I don’t have it as badly as a lot of people do. I am not afraid that people will judge me a fool just because I say something stupid- I know I’m not stupid, so I don’t care if they judge me that way. It’s those things I have doubts about that I can’t let out, can’t let them see the light of day to be judged. I have doubts about whether or not my feelings are legitimate, I have doubts about my looks, I have doubts about my character, about the very goodness of my soul. I keep my doubts about all of those things and the thoughts and experiences that prompt them deep in my consciousness, very close to confidences other people have had in me. I don’t let people have at them because I fear their judgment, because I haven’t made up my mind about them. I’m not afraid when I’m sure of myself. But I am afraid that if I let out my doubts and their sources for people to judge, it will change my view of myself. If I am judged nicely, it could be better for me, but on the other hand, I could be judged harshly and find myself worse off than I am now.

Blech, what an obnoxiously self-indulgent post. Oh well. That’s me…