Monday, October 31, 2005

Shrew's Spleen Corner

Dear Readers,

I hope that my husband’s new girlfriend is patient. The guy can talk. And that she has no needs of her own. And is able to translate his language (a combination of quotes from I Heart Huckabees and the Wes Anderson oeuvre). And is not offended by his sexist humor (and certainly never claims that women in this country have any difficulty of any kind). And that she is not “negative” (of COURSE she isn’t). Oh, and (yes, I’m going to say it) likes having sex that lasts 1-2 minutes.


Thursday, October 27, 2005

Dead Crush #5

I know this one’s really obvious. Except maybe you didn’t think I could have a crush on a dead woman. You were wrong.

I think about Sylvia Plath at least once a day, and have done so for about 5 years. I believe that I’m leading a life which very closely parallels the one that Sylvia led, except I’m not bipolar, am not a native New Englander, and do not have children. Nor did I marry a stuffy English poet. Here’s what we do have in common: obsessive journaling, obsessive behavior in general, poetry, love of beauty and clothing, love of food and cooking, obsession with our bodies and appearances, desire to live as an outsider, fear of life as an outsider, desire for perfect balance of work and love, betrayal by our husbands, procrastination, attraction to abusive losers, fear of our shadow selves. She offed herself when she was my age exactly. I don’t think I’ll do this (I have about 2 months left of 31hood), but who knows. Sylvia may decide that I should (this is not a cry for help, by the way—I still need to publish my book and leave this state for good before I die).

What do I think of when I think of Sylvia Plath once a day? Her pages-long description of the pleasures of elaborate nose-picking (another thing we share in common). Her obsession over whether or not to work, and where the money was going to come from if she didn’t work full time. Her pictures. How she got up at 5 am every morning after that bastard left her and wrote like a fiend before her kids woke up, and wrote the best poems of her life, some of the best poems in English. Her mother telling her, in a letter, “You are a child of the universe. You deserve to be here.” Her poems, of course—these lines in particular:

“I am mad, calls the spider, waving its many arms.”

“The dead bell/the dead bell//Somebody’s done for.”

“I should wear tiger pants, I should have an affair.”

“Love, love, my season.”

“Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through” (of course)

“Out of the ash/I rise with my red hair/And I eat men like air.”

“Eye, the cauldron of morning.”

I think about her fretting over sweaters. I think about her making some kind of stew or cake. I think about her in Spain, England, Massachusetts. I think about her worrying about publishing, the same worries I have.

More than a crush, I think of her as my partner. At 31 she had already died twice. Like the other ones who died, her shadow overtook her, right after she finally embraced it.

Robert Johnson (the psychologist, not the musician) writes that the bigger the creativity in a person, the more overwhelming the shadow. He uses Picasso and others as examples. I have felt very overwhelmed by my shadow self the last few years, because in suppressing it, it caused me to be hurtful to someone I loved, someone who happened to be the one who encouraged the stifling of the shadow. According to Johnson, if you don’t honor and acknowledge the shadow self in a regular ritual, it will begin to control you, until you are all shadow. So now I’m trying to figure out what my ritual is going to be. Because my shadow, unsuppressed, appears to be quite large. In fact, it is not only bigger than the shadows of the people who wanted me to suppress it, it is bigger than all of the actual people themselves. Am I bragging? Maybe, though in the past I would have been ashamed to even mention this, let alone exalt it.

Right now, my ritual is screaming various obscenities at a pillow until I start crying. Sometimes the crying begins before the obscenities come out. Sometimes the crying begins the second I step out of the building where I work. The shadow saying, “Can I come out NOW?” Although that might not be all shadow--there is quite a bit of loss in there right now.

I am pissed. I think the whole thing is really sexist. What whole thing? All of it. Life. I feel like I’m not supposed to have a shadow because I’m blonde and nice. I’m from Iowa. I like dogs and babies. I listen and am helpful. And I fantasize about killing, maiming, and arson. I was born with this stuff. I’m not a bad person. No one ever says to men, "Hey buddy, let's see a little sunshine. Turn that frown upside down!" I can’t tell you how many men in my life have told me, no, COMMANDED me, to smile. “Hey, would it hurt you to smile?”

Yes. It will kill both of us.

(Happy birthday, Sylvia)

Friday, October 21, 2005

Dead Crush #4

Don’t imagine having sex with Jackson Pollock. Just don’t. You won’t like it.

I have been very angry for two solid months. I feel worried about what will happen when the anger goes away entirely. Sometimes it does go away and I feel delicate and shaky. I will be talking to my sister on the phone and will recall a time that my husband said something funny, adorable, or wonderful. He can be all of these things, occasionally. I will feel sad and tormented. Later, I will remember that I made his girlfriend dinner and complimented her stupid outfits before he declared his love for her: a chipmunky person who drives an SUV. Then the anger will come back and I will cuddle down in it, at home once again. My anger has become more like one of those body pillows than like the burning hot spear of hatred it once was. I need it. It helps me go to sleep.

However, the images of the girlfriend make me less and less mad. Two months is a long time to think about someone with no ideas or anything interesting contribute to the fabric of human experience. There are many other things to be angry about: the destruction of the future I imagined for myself, for example. But there are other futures. More than anything right now, I feel sort of…content. I don’t think good things about my husband. The funny, adorable, and wonderful things are like cheap plasticky trinkets now. They are sort of worthless. Pretty and cute, but not much else. I need stuff that is more like very heavy Victorian furniture right now. Fortunately, the furniture is right here inside shrew. I don’t need some dude to make me complete. In fact, I fear how little I need or want a dude. I mean, for Relationship purposes. Am I my own boyfriend? Sort of.

I do love Jackson Pollock so much. I’ve always known that I would name my kid after him. I love any story about him beating the crap out of someone at the Cedar Bar, or overturning tables, or doing other Jackson Pollock drunk stuff. Have you seen the movies of him painting? I want living to be like that. I’ve often been envious of men and the social acceptance of their violence. OK, the violence isn’t REALLY accepted, but I bet a lot more people would have been on the phone in hushed tones had it been ME who punched a hole in the wall at a restaurant where I worked many years ago, rather than my boyfriend at that time. The loud unreal crack of a fist going through the wall. The weird quiet afterwards. I say this as someone who has been hit in the face before by someone she loves: Don’t you wish it had been me? Don’t you kind of wish it had been you?

Intermission 2

I can't resist another picture of George.

Monday, October 17, 2005


Things I Can Do Guilt-free Now That I Am Unmarried Person (note: I am still officially married)

1. Eat many varieties of meat, including some kind of Portuguese steak.
2. Smoke.
3. Drink heartily.
4. Talk on the phone for more than 15 minutes.
5. Have friends.
6. Write.
7. Make stuff. Spend over one hour making stuff.
8. Hug my dog.
9. Sleep with my dog every night.
10. Talk to my dog on any topic, for any length of time that I choose.
11. Talk.
12. Feel.
13. Emote.
14. Think pure evil thoughts and occasionally say them out loud.
15. Lust after strangers.
16. Lust after nonstrangers.
17. Listen to George Jones.
18. Listen to Tammy Wynette.
19. Watch the Lifetime movies “Sex and the Single Mom” and “Sex and the Single Mom II.”
20. Believe in god.
21. Be uncool.
22. Be totally cool.
23. Hate most indie rock music.
24. Hate all people that communicate solely through movie quotes.
25. Need my sister.
26. Be sarcastic, mean, and unhappy.
27. Be uncute. Be the opposite of cute.
28. Be a total fucking bitch.
29. Be alone.
30. Be alone.
31. Be alone.

One for each year I've been alive. Though that's a coincidence.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Dead Crush #3

Sometimes I wonder if I’m just the kind of person people want to cheat on. It seems significant that the two people I’ve cared most about have done it. Of course, one was abusive and one incapable of empathy, but it still hurts like anything. And of course, they didn’t MEAN to cheat on me. You know, they just ACCIDENTLY found themselves naked with a seventeen-year-old while I was out of town. Or ACCIDENTLY fell in love with their short, annoying, poor-little-rich-girl-codependent photography teacher right under my nose, while making me feel like I was crazy to think that there was anything going on. I probably deserved it, though, right? I mean, I’m CRAZY. I want ATTENTION. I have EMOTIONS.

Anyway. You know who doesn’t cheat? George Harrison. Why doesn’t he? Well, he’s dead. And also I never dated him. I think he did cheat though—he stole Eric Clapton’s wife (aside: Gram Parsons stole David Crosby’s wife). Is that cheating? Anyway, he didn’t cheat on me for the entire 6 months the 20-year-old version of him was my imaginary boyfriend. Kind of like Gram is my imaginary boyfriend now. And HE certainly doesn’t cheat on me. In fact, I’m the best thing that ever happened to him (though this is often THE VERY THING that causes them to cheat).

I told my therapist that the only boyfriend I can handle right now is an imaginary one. She laughed, but I don’t think she knew that I’m dead serious: I have an imaginary boyfriend. And I didn’t tell her that I’ve had imaginary boyfriends for various reasons since I was about six. (Davy Jones of the Monkees was the first one. I used to have a weird fantasy about him naked in a bathroom with Dolly Parton.) It kind of makes sense at six or even sixteen. I think at thirty-one it might be a little sad. But what do you want? My husband just dumped me for his fucking teacher. I’m a little sad.

George did not die young. He was a good boy. Well, he did enough LSD to kill a small donkey. But he cleaned up and lived to the ripe old age of 58. I shouldn’t be flippant about it—I was very sad when he died. I listened to All Things Must Pass about hundred times and cried. He has been my favorite Beatle since I was about four years old, when that Beatles cartoon used to come on TV. He’s always called “the quiet Beatle,” but that’s just a way of not giving him a steadfast identity. He was the only one who didn’t have to thrash around in the persona box created by the media until he was a caricature of himself. Just watch A Hard Day’s Night. Paul is so self-conscious about his cuteness that it’s painful to watch. And John is so focused on being witty that you just want to strangle him. And Ringo is, well, Ringo. George is just himself—a beautiful goofball, a trickster, a real musician. This is the George who was my boyfriend about ten years ago.

The imaginary boyfriend is so much more pleasant than the real one. The way you become my imaginary boyfriend is that I listen to your music on my walkman every waking moment (except now, because I don’t have a walkman) and I visualize different types of 1) meeting for the first time 2) various dates 3) meeting my family (my grandma was particularly smitten with Rivers Cuomo) 4) making out, but usually no actual sex. The real boyfriend: 1) I meet WHILE making out with him, usually 2) there are no dates—you go from the hookup to attached at the hip 3) my family has never liked anyone I’ve dated (or married) because they’re all so annoying and/or evil 4) everything they do is a ploy to make you want to have sex with them, and they usually don’t appreciate a fully-or partially-clothed make-out session after about week one.

I think I’ve always assumed that I can’t have these things with real relationships. But what I’m asking for isn’t that earth-shattering: dates, my family liking them (not so much the whole family, but my siblings, at least), appreciating each other. Not what I imagine most people fantasize about. But I’ve never really had these things, because I’m not very good at choosing. I don’t choose, really, I allow.

So this is telling: Every single imaginary boyfriend is a musician (the dead crushes haven’t all been boyfriends). Usually a guitar player. I think. I guess there was that brief thing with Elijah Wood. But that was mostly a strange desire to make out with a hobbit (I’m sorry this is so confessional; divorce will do that to a person). The real boyfriends have all been musicians too, though most of them half-assed or so driven and goal-oriented that they sucked all the beauty out of it, if there was even any there to begin with (doubtful). The thing the imaginary musician boyfriends have in common: passion. Passion, passion, passion. What’s the one thing lacking in every real boyfriend I’ve had? You guessed it. Oh, let me rephrase that—passion for something outside of THEIR EGOS. Of course, I don’t know if the imaginary boyfriends are passionate in real life. But that doesn’t matter—I’ve never even heard them talk, only sing. I have imaginary relationships based entirely on singing and guitar-playing. And it is enough. I’ve had too many real relationships that are based solely on talking. That is, them talking. Me listening. And listening and listening. Might as well listen to something pretty.

The George songs are the best, don’t you think? Or I don’t know if it’s his songs as much as it is his earnest, nasal voice. He has a way of singing the word “taxman” that gives it about twenty weird half-syllables. His voice is very textured and oddly innocent. But if you really aren’t sure if you’re in love with George or not, please PLEASE listen to him sing Carl Perkins songs. You’ll see him in the way that I want him to be forever: young, skinny-legged, kind, in love with the music. He was kind right up until the end, and I wish he hadn’t suffered so much when he died.

I don’t think I need to give up my imaginary boyfriends yet. They let me practice the art of appreciating someone’s passion. Someday I’ll get to do this on a real person, because I actually believe there are real live passionate men out there who know what they want. They might even want to go on dates. I think adults might do that. And I’ll bet quite a few of them are not musicians. And maybe some of them might care that I’m a passionate person too. Maybe.