“I have known exactly how relationships would end, and I entered them anyway. The ego is always built into emotional undoing—to imagine myself as the one who will love someone into correction, even though I have never been loved so much that love alone undid the worst of me.”from Hanif Abdurraqib’s devastatingly beautiful essay in The Paris Review, On Breakups
Relationships are everything. Connection is everything.
“I remember as a small child seeing the geese flying south. Firefly season. A cicada that lived for a while in the cracks of the cement bricks that made up our porch wall. A flash flood sweeping cars away while we were huddled under an overhang on a picnic. Lightning felling a tree in our backyard. I guess I learned that everything will pass.
But also, and equally true, it will all come back again.”Karen Joy Fowler
Every week, S. and I have a call to talk about one thing, but we almost always begin with another. On Thursday, we began by discussing this incredible piece (The Crane Wife) in The Paris Review. There has been an undercurrent of thinking about the shapes we believe we have to take in order to invite love in; of how we make ourselves smaller, ask ourselves to need less in order to appear worthy of love.
The next day, I finished reading Deborah Levy’s The Cost of Living, in which the author reminds us: “To separate from love is to live a risk-free life. What’s the point of that sort of life?”
AK is always talking to me about maintaining my mountain pose, and he asks me if my stubborn patterns in building relationships (or stumbling on/upon them) feels to me like accidentally stepping to a different dance that I already know the steps to. Absolutely! I respond. You can always tell what someone’s home dance is, based on the habits their bodies hold onto as they learn a new one.
I take time to remind myself that almost nothing in life is linear. Not our outward portrayal of success, not our bodies and health, not love, not friendships, not the greenness of my four plants in the windowsill, not the rhythm and pace of sleep. We are who we are right now in order to become who we will be. Growth doesn’t always look or feel like growth, sometimes it’s underneath the soil, sometimes it’s within our leaves, sometimes all your leaves turn yellow and red and then brown, then drop to the ground in order for new life to grow again.
My sister and I grew in a womb together, and when I spend time with her I feel in awe at how little I know about her, and how much we have both changed. The way we regard (crave or don’t crave) touch from men, and the way we talk about love languages. She asked me to re-take the Myers Briggs test and we marveled at the disparity between us. But we still buy the same flavor of Pop Tarts.
In yoga class, J. implores us to love the transitions just as much, if not more, than arriving at the pose itself. S. and I contemplate water and earth. One shapes the other.
Brecht says: But love is like war; it always finds a way. Perhaps he originally said it the other way around, but still.
On a Tuesday, we are in Korea Town claiming that we’ll go in for “just one song.” JD, whom I am meeting for the first time, says that he never sings “just one song”- it’s either hours, or nothing at all. We get a room for 8 people and stay for 6 hours (I mean, Jia did it too), because it’s cathartic to sing with strangers you’ve just met alongside friends you’ve known for decades. I’ve always had the intuition when I meet someone: is this person for good, or for just now? Either way, karaoke has been a pretty good proxy. We accidentally sing from every Disney movie, shake it like a Polaroid picture, butcher Jay Chou songs, and twirl in the bouncing, ridiculous disco lights. The night deepens as B. serenades me with “Every Rose Has Its Thorns” while I am laughing, I am laughing so hard. “You’re so happy,” he croons, “why are you so happy?”
“I’m not, it’s just… it’s just all so true,” I gasp.
Afterwards, we put down the microphones and he two-steps slowly with me in a circle, in a hoop that never ends.
Excuse me while I drink summer through a firehose as medication for a particularly poor handling of northeast winter. A short how-to: live 17 days on a boat, snorkel every day, spend most of the time reading library books, eat slices of deli turkey straight from the not-cold-enough boat refrigerator, learn approximately 1.5 Greek words, stay awake for 1 sunset with some significant help, forget how to tie all the knots you were supposed to learn how to tie. And dance, dance! dance.
More on that later, but for now, the real reason I came here. I’m languishing (flourishing, really) in the heat of July and L. sends me an article. As I continue on my now-three-year experiment of reading mostly women, I thirst for a way to describe how I feel about suddenly understanding an entire planet, solar system, universe, black hole inside of me that I hadn’t even been able to put words to before. I’ve grown more wary of the self-centeredness of male writing, the way much of it chops life up to fit only the male author’s own tiny reality. So how much of my (our?) experience of the world would be different had we (also) been encouraged to read the secret canon, the one written from the female point of view? There are other interesting coincidences, but anyway, this piece by Audrey Wollen floored me.
I hold my women close, dead or not. Not-ness, of course, being our way of life. When I was asked to consider how men should be, I thought about how it must feel to not be not—a walking double negative. I can’t tell you how to be from this space of non-being. My boyfriend and I frequently get into arguments over my tendency to generalize. He loves specificity, context, nuance. I respect it, and I love those things too. But I usually speak in large categories, universal proclamations, talking like a manifesto even in gossip, in passing. I know stereotypes are stupid and harmful, for obvious reasons, but I’m willing to defend generalizations, as that’s all language seems like to me. A small, insufficient thing standing in for a big, complicated one.
I finally explained to him, when I talk about “men” and their power, their shortcomings, it is not for blindness to the subtleties of the individual or their circumstances. It is simply a practical solution for a lack of time. Do you want me to list every man who has done violence to me or my loved ones? I don’t know all their names. Trying to list them would be like recreating Borges’s map over a map—you know, that thing where they map the landscape so perfectly it just lays over it, doubling it. I can tell you my life in patriarchal harm, but it would take the length of my life over. I only have one.
I feel like I’m doing one of those negative space drawings in art class, tracing the air between the elbow, finding the blank edge. It is an impossible project, a feminist feeling. We spend a lot of time debating whether men should be written about, but I don’t know if “should” is the right verb. I don’t know if men can be written about, if it’s even a possibility. It’s simply not a sustainable model, as demonstrated by the impending end of the world. Every time you slice into the canon, girls rush out like ghosts. Lou, Paula, Katherine, Marina, so on and so on.
Addendum: another article explores the suggestion that women have less time to create.
I also wonder: what if we really did do the work to create a world where the sisters of Shakespeare and Mozart, or any woman, really, could thrive? What would happen if we decided women deserved the time to go to their dusky rooms and stay awhile at the kitchen table?
The writer VS Naipaul claimed that no woman writer was his match, that women’s writing is too “sentimental”, their worldview too “narrow” – because, you know, men’s lives are the default for the human experience.