On love in a time of “like this”
I may be overstating the case, a little bit. Very probably, you’re sick to death of hearing social media disrespected by cranky 51-year-olds. My aim here is mainly to set up a contrast between the narcissistic tendencies of technology and the problem of actual love. My friend Alice Sebold likes to talk about “getting down in the pit and loving somebody.” She has in mind the dirt that love inevitably splatters on the mirror of our self-regard.
The simple fact of the matter is that trying to be perfectly likable is incompatible with loving relationships. Sooner or later, for example, you’re going to find yourself in a hideous, screaming fight, and you’ll hear coming out of your mouth things that you yourself don’t like at all, things that shatter your self-image as a fair, kind, cool, attractive, in-control, funny, likable person. Something realer than likability has come out in you, and suddenly you’re having an actual life. […]
There is no such thing as a person whose real self you like every particle of. This is why a world of liking is ultimately a lie. But there is such a thing as a person whose real self you love every particle of. […]
This is not to say that love is only about fighting. Love is about bottomless empathy, born out of the heart’s revelation that another person is every bit as real as you are. And this is why love, as I understand it, is always specific. Trying to love all of humanity may be a worthy endeavor, but, in a funny way, it keeps the focus on the self, on the self’s own moral or spiritual well-being. Whereas, to love a specific person, and to identify with his or her struggles and joys as if they were your own, you have to surrender some of your self.
Jonathan Franzen | Liking is for Cowards. Go for What Hurts.
One of my friends writes young adult fiction. She just landed a book deal a couple of months ago and couldn’t be more thrilled. She reads the genre as voraciously as she writes it, and I once asked her what continues to draw her to young adult, as she is near 30 now.
She said it’s endearing. Young adult conflicts are usually first-time problems. They’re painful and stressful in an exceptionally fresh way. They struggle because the problems are unfamiliar territory, the miles and miles of it that stretch out before you when you’re not quite a teen, not quite an adult.
Movies about adults who delusionally believe they’re young adults? Not so endearing. I’ve hated this movie since I saw the trailer for the first time, which it premature and judgmental but not entirely baseless. A 30-something Charlize Theron comes back to her hometown to break up a marriage. Judging from the trailer, a large portion of the film consists of Charlize giving babies dirty looks and looking hungover. She’s rude to people, takes a lot of shots and at one point crashes a car, which may or may not be related to the former.
What rich cultural commentary, especially the movie’s tagline: “Everyone gets old. Not everyone grows up.” Wow, there’s a new one. There’s already have an alarmingly comfortable acceptance of immaturity today. I don’t think we need Diablo Cody to make a movie that glamorizes it and makes it any more hip. I can already hear all the adults who talk about how “your 20s is about making mistakes” and how they are still “figuring out their lives” ordering their tickets now.
Maybe we can have some movies about adults doing cool stuff? You know, like making something. Or trying to help someone. Trying to change something, like politics. Trying really hard to be a better person. Just throwing some ideas out there. How about this, how about the adult just tries. Can we start making more movies like that, Diablo?
But in most other respects Mr. Hitchens is undiminished, preferring to see himself as living with cancer, not dying from it. He still holds forth in dazzlingly clever and erudite paragraphs, pausing only to catch a breath or let a punch line resonate, and though he says his legendary productivity has fallen off a little since his illness, he still writes faster than most people talk. Last week he stayed up until 1 in the morning to finish an article for Vanity Fair, working on a laptop on his bedside table.
Writing seems to come almost as naturally as speech does to Mr. Hitchens, and he consciously associates the two. “If you can talk, you can write,” he said. “You have to be careful to keep your speech as immaculate as possible. That’s what I’m most afraid of. I’m terrified of losing my voice.” He added: “Writing is something I do for a living, all right — it’s my livelihood. But it’s also my life. I couldn’t live without it.”
Charles McGrath for The New York Times, Oct. 2009
Sh*t Girls Say
"Sh*t Girls Say" started infiltrating my Twitter feed a couple of months ago. These things come and go. Texts from Last Night, Sh*t My Dad Says. Hey, remember Stuff White People Like? These shticks are deemed hilarious and retweeted in a sign of endorsement by thousands of people before slowly fading away to new things, like Texts from Bennett.
Well, I can’t wait for “Sh*t Girls Say” to fade. The creator is now making a series of videos where a man dressed as a woman says things like “Look in my purse,” and “Can you do me a huge favor?” in a Valley Girl accent. It quickly spread like wildfire on the Web, primarily touted by women who call it true, scary and funny — all at the same time. It suddenly took on an innovative tone, like a social breakthrough.
I have mixed reactions on it. It irks me to no end when people can’t take a joke, and especially when they twist something lighthearted into matters of academia. But it’s another thing when the joke being shoved in your face isn’t funny. There is no level of wit or creativity to this. I don’t think a woman asking about her computer password is laughworthy. If you think about it for 30 seconds, or even try to explain why this is deemed funny, you might arrive at the same conclusion. It’s lazy humor dressed in drag.
Because if you dress a man as a woman and make him say anything, well damn, that’s hilarious.
IF DEC. 12 IS YOUR BIRTHDAY: Actress Madchen Amick (1970) shares your birthday today. You have a winning, easy-going personality that easily impresses others. People enjoy your company. You’re always aware of your physical actions — how you look and move. You’re a natural performer because you have a natural sense of style. (But you sometimes use your mask to hide.) In the year ahead, partnerships and close friendships will be primary focuses for you.
The Wall Street Journal shows its left wing leanings with this ad juxtaposition.
Image via Ryan Chittum.
I did something deeply stupid Sunday. It started in the morning, when I sat on my bed and made a to-do list. Laundry, pay electric bill, groceries, Christmas shopping. Punctuating this list was a simple verb, underlined: write.
As a serial list-maker, the word “write” has made an appearance of countless scraps of paper, but always with a specific purpose. Write column, write review, write paper, write thank you note. This might have been the first time it simply hung, dangling from the purposeful tasks of laundry and runs to Trader Joe’s, lacking an end result.
I went to my neighborhood Starbucks, where a 20-something hipster graciously switched seats when my cord was too short for the wall outlet. Nora Jones played. I fucking hate Nora Jones’ music. So I searched Spotify for approximately 24 minutes. Then a middle-aged man slowly walked by me three times before coming up to say, “Natasha!”
When I looked up he tripped over his feet. “Oh, sorry Ithoughtyouweresomeonelse.” Mumbles. He swiftly turned and walked back to his table. Then I spent another significant length of time wondering about that man’s relationship to Natasha, and if he was having an extra-marital affair through Craigslist.
I started writing about an old couple that goes to all their doctor’s appointments together, grew slightly depressed with it, and X-ed it out. Everything got X-ed out, all night. Document2. Document3.
I left Starbucks and continued on my couch in complete silence with a bottle of water, as if it was actually physical exercise. I set deadlines for myself, demanding a story from my fingertips in just under an hour. Then Facebook came into the mix and that’s when things really went to hell.
"I’m going CRAZY," I told my roommate. "I really feel like I have a mental disease. I just tried to write for FOUR HOURS and hated everything. This is it, I’ve lost it," I told her.
"That’s not true," she said. I was rearranging a hairbrush, books and other junk on my nightstand, facing the wall that separated me from her, as she sat alone in the kitchen. "Maybe you should write about this,” she said, indicating that very moment as I paced my room and pled to insanity.
This is the elephant in the room. Writing was never supposed to be a task. In fact, what first drew me to writing was that it was easy for me when the world was hard. It’s what got me through speed tests when I left 85 percent of the math problems blank. It’s the spy journals I kept when I was a kid and watched people swimming in their underwear at a hotel pool. It’s the Writing portion of the ACT, the only thing that saved me from a full on panic attack during the great college hunt of 2005.
Writing has been on my side, and maybe half the battle is to remember that and treat it as such. I’m so accustomed to having an audience that I interrogate any one word I type. “Are you necessary? Are you cliché? Are you redundant?” I don’t even bother saving it anymore. That’s not how a writer should treat her words.
One of my favorite English professors in college once said writers had to be incredibly disciplined. They had to sit down and make themselves write. I came to accept this as a Cardinal rule, a universally accepted truth, partially because it came out of this genius’ mouth. Now I understand that my relationship to writing isn’t like that. It’s never been about forcing myself or making myself do anything.
It’s about a 10-year-old hand holding a blunt pencil with a vanished eraser. It’s about that hand scribbling too fast to keep up with the words bouncing across her mind and which thoughts she wants to make real. It’s about misspelling words just because she’s too focused on the next one, completely unconcerned whether anybody will like it. It’s not about questioning herself, identifying a voice or if she has some smidge of talent. It’s not about any of that. It’s about a hand gripping a pencil with white knuckles, trying so damn hard and yet, at the same time, not trying at all.