Archive for ‘throes’

January 25th, 2017

Feminine Exceptionalism

The following is a[n attempt at] translation of the Trilema piece Exceptionalismul femenin.

You’ve doubtlessly come across at least one side or another of these strategies/social psychopathologies in day to day life (depending on where you’ve found yourself, on the outside or the inside of the disease), even if it didn’t seem in the respective moment that they’d make up part of a structured and describable whole, just as not everyone who trips over a mastodon bone sticking halfway out of the ground will start to reconstruct the entire animal with its habitat and everything. Excusable, but man’ve we got work to do, and man’ll it be tough.

Feminine exceptionalism begins, as the name suggests, with an exception. “Sure, smoking’s not allowed here, but can’t I smoke?” “Sure, it’s written on the card not to tell anyone the PIN, the bank sent letters to remind you not to tell anyone the PIN, on the ATM screen there’s an advertisement to not tell anyone the PIN, but you’ll tell me, won’t you?” The list, in principle, is neverending, but in practice it always reduces to a very simple pattern. The rule is X, surely it’s so, but the girl doesn’t consider it to be the case that it applies to her.

She doesn’t contest that in truth the rule exists, she doesn’t contest either that it’s a good and necessary rule. In fact, any discussion of whether the rule is good or bad doesn’t interest her at all; on the contrary, such a discussion would detract from the real point of interest for her. She doesn’t contest either that she makes up part of the category of applicability of the rule. On the contrary, for feminine exceptionalism to function, a valid, useful rule whose applicability she falls within is absolutely necessary.

Why? Here we arrive at the true psychological reason for the whole operation: the girl suffers from a problem of self-esteem. She feels, she considers, or she was taught to believe herself to be inferior. Eventually all three. Inferior not just to the other men, and not just to the other women, but even to she herself, to her own “potential”.

To combat this psychological sequela, she feels it necessary to prop up her existence with special treatment. Every valid and applicable rule which is broken offers her a bubble of oxygen: maybe she’s not a piece of shit, because hey, in that moment she’s that special.

The poor form of asking to smoke somewhere the owner doesn’t, of the same species and class of asking for vegetable oil when the table’s having butter doesn’t interest her, because she is not in fact well-mannered, but on the contrary, she still carries under her nails the filth of the existence of the low to (about) the middle class which blessed her with the stretch-marks and soul-marks of which we speak.

And of course, like any psychological problem of the transactional class, this complaint exhibits two specific particularities. Firstly, it is progressive. If yesterday she’s been allowed to smoke though smoking’s not allowed, it’s no longer sufficient today, it no longer produces an effect, so she’ll smoke two, four, eight, sixty cigarettes. Until the end, the stimuli have to progress geometrically in order for the receptors to be stimulated in arithmetic progression.

If yesterday you’ve waited on her five minutes, today you’ll have to wait half an hour, and tomorrow we’ll be forced to go to another city instead of the cafe we’d planned on, for no other reason than that the girl doesn’t feel so great. In the head.

And secondly it is, like any transaction, prone to disproportionate reactions. If the girl has negotiated in her mind that for today proof of the fact that she isn’t a piece of shit will be manifested through letting her drive the car, and you don’t let her drive, for whatever reason, no matter the reason, like for instance that the car’s fallen in a lake, or it’s been stolen overnight, wasps have made a nest in there or whatever else, the girl’s head is going to explode, and she’ll bawl on about how could you say that she’s a good for nothing piece of shit.

Which, honestly, she is, preferably to be shat onto a cart headed somewhere in the direction of a hospital for nervous disorders, where who knows, with attentive care and the help of experts, something else might be done with her.

April 25th, 2015

One good turn…

…deserves a voiceover.

Click ye and be sad.

From Mircea Popescu’s splendid reworking of Auden’s “Stop All the Clocks”, which was sad enough on its own but not nearly as viscerally upsetting or vividly obliterating as MP’s. I haven’t dealt too much with death, but when I do, I’m sure I’d rather die myself than remember this thing. Which, somehow, and deeply, is a compliment.

March 24th, 2012

Losing Sight

My first pair of glasses seemed transformational to me when I began to wear them. It wasn’t so much the improvement in vision that struck me. Instead, it seemed I was creating a character of self –perhaps helped along by the new haircut and color I got at around the same time. I was a teenager, and in many moments was more concerned about my own appearance and presentation than with the accuracy of my senses. I’ve had a few more pairs since then, and while the style is still a point of interest for me, my vision has declined enough to make the real purpose and meaning of eyeglasses a matter of function. As a kid I routinely scored well on vision tests, but at some point my eyes began to lose their precision, and today my sight is bad enough to make getting around without glasses pretty much impossible.

For a few years I worried about the seemingly steady loss of focus and clarity. I imagined futures in which I’d end up completely blind, or relegated to perceiving only blocks of color and size without any detailed features. In truth, the thought of such a future still comes to mind from time to time, but I’m not particularly worried about it. There’s a different sort of declining sight that seems much more threatening. Throughout my life, I’ve more or less known what I wanted. Goals and objectives have changed, for sure, but it’s been a rare occurrence in which I’ve had to put much effort into making a big, directional decision. It’s been easy. Maybe because of my youth or maybe because of a lack of quality introspection, I took this ease for granted, as a natural and right and normal thing.

Now, confronting uncertainty and doubt, I recognize the blessing for what it was. Conviction may not be everything, but certainly, it helps a great deal. I’ve been mulling and hmming and hawwing these past months more than I ever remember doing before, the questions and confusion sometimes lurking in the background and sometimes demanding attention that’s unfortunately required elsewhere. Not having a convenient algorithm with which to choose, I’ve been like a buoy on the waves, floating aimlessly in constant yet unimpressive movement, pitched ridiculously by my immediate circumstances. I know I’d rather steam over the ocean in a smooth steel ship, but where? Where.

On the one hand, there may be nothing particularly wrong with this bout of questioning and uncertainty. Though it makes me more than a little nuts to imagine I’m wasting precious time, I acknowledge the need to give important decisions their due consideration, and to give myself whatever’s needed to consider well and fully. On the other hand, the mental and emotional exhaustion of the buoy dance seems to have the effect of at least temporarily blinding me to the importance and meaning of the present. There’s little question that I could ever lose sight of the future without making a deliberate effort. Yet losing sight of today and of the vague notion of “now” is a real risk.

Whether moving towards a goal or fumbling through the pages of that great goal catalog, I think taking stock and really seeing well are too often demoted in the list of priorities. It’s not necessarily a slowing down that’s called for, but an honest thread of attention, one that can identify accomplishments, interesting patterns, and deep meanings rather than impatiently skittering over the surface in order to get through a seemingly uninteresting step towards the next. What I mean to convey, of course, is further from new than the words I’m using to convey it; under the guises of “mindfulness” and various other collected theories and dictates, the need to “be here now” has been pointed out by countless others. In fact, shortly after I got that first pair of glasses, I also got a book of that very title, and laid on the grass at lunch and imagined that one day I’d be worldly and mature and would understand what it all meant.

Today I completed my work well. I cooked for myself –something healthy and delicious. I made attempts to meet certain challenges and felt disappointed by the lack of quick gratification. I watched Marilyn Monroe do her thing and felt certain I could change myself. I felt great love, and great duty, and humility. I am here –and I am grateful.