Archive for the ‘thinking’ Category
“In the middle of the journey of our life I found myself within a dark woods where the straight way was lost.”
Dante Alighieri – Inferno
See here. I’m one of the speakers but the loads more too…
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When did two drinks a week become 14? A few things happened between then and now. These days I’m a parent of two young children, whose acute dependency upon me makes socializing around a glass of wine or beer at a friend’s toy-filled house often the best choice. I live in California, where wine is available on tap, and sold in nearly every neighborhood grocery store. I can afford a few bottles in the house, whereas before I’d run out to buy one only before a party or dinner. Heck, I’m a writer.
I live at the place where these circles meet: I am the Venn diagram of drinking as habitual and easy entertainment.
You might say, “Why worry?” Much of the epidemiological research out there is pretty decisive on the benefits of moderate drinking, though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends a daily limit of one drink for women and two for men, says that recent research on health benefits is inconclusive.
Here’s the thing: At this middle stage of my life, I can easily make out the slippery slope where two a day becomes three; when you split a bottle of wine and open another; when you go out for a special event and three drinks doesn’t do much because you’ve built up a tolerance and it takes four or even five drinks to achieve a celebratory state of inebriation. Perhaps I think more about these borderlands because though my husband is also a moderate drinker, he has a strong family history of alcoholism. For him, the slippery slope is more like a cliff.
But my inquiry is not about the descent into addiction. It’s an attempt to investigate more deeply the middle ground between the poles of addiction and abstinence, at a time when our culture is sending out dueling messages.
From Bonnie Tsui’s very nicely observed “Drinking by Numbers” in The New York Times.
In the heavy fashion magazines strewn here and there around the house the photos of objects and people mouth the word “money,” but you, assuming no one wants you anymore, mishear the message as “meaning.” Arousal follows. The lives of the rich are so fabulous! The destruction of the poetical lies heavily on their hands, as on their swollen notion that we are always watching. There is nothing behind the mask. Nothing suffocating under its pressure, no human essence trying to get out.
Awareness, always awareness. Don’t you see how these elaborate masks are turning you into a zombie? The private life is not for the eye but for the endless interior. It is trying to push all this crap aside and find the missing line. Nobody, least of all the future, cares about the outcome of this quest.
It is easy to lose, through meddling or neglect, an entire aspect of existence. And sometimes, to cultivate a single new thought, you need not only silence but an entirely new life.
It seems that this is what loneliness is designed to do: to provoke the restoration of social bonds. Like pain itself, it exists to alert the organism to a state of untenability, to prompt a change in circumstance. We are social animals, the theory goes, and so isolation is – or was, at some unspecified point in our evolutionary journey – unsafe for us. This theory neatly explains the physical consequences of loneliness, which ally to a heightened sense of threat, but I can’t help feeling it doesn’t capture the entirety of loneliness as a state.
A little while after I came home, I found a poem by Borges, written in English, the language his grandmother had taught him as a child. It reminded me of my time in New York, and of Wojnarowicz in particular. It’s a love poem, written by a man who’s stayed up all night wandering through a city. Indeed, since he compares the night explicitly to waves, ‘darkblue top-heavy waves … laden with/ things unlikely and desirable’, one might literally say that he’s been cruising.
In the first part of the poem he describes an encounter with you, ‘so lazily and incessantly beautiful,’ and in the second he lists what he has to offer, a litany of surprising and ambiguous gifts that ends with three lines I’m certain Wojnarowicz would have understood:
I can give you my loneliness, my darkness, the
hunger of my heart; I am trying to bribe you
with uncertainty, with danger, with defeat.
It took me a long time to understand how loneliness might be a gift, but now I think I’ve got it. Borges’s poem voiced the flip side of that disturbing essay I’d read in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine on loneliness’s consequences and mechanisms. Loneliness might raise one’s blood pressure and fill one with paranoia, but it also offers compensations: a depth of vision, a hungry kind of acuity.
Oh my goodness I am so enjoying Olivia Laing’s writing. This is from “Mw, myself and I” in aeon.
Posted in feminism, feminist motherhood, motherhood, motherhood bliss, motherhood sux, pop culture, pregnancy and birth, raising daughters, teenagers, thinking, writing on May 20, 2016| Leave a Comment »
This is really interesting! From “What does it mean when we call women girls?” by Robin Wasserman in Literary Hub.
Here’s how Louis CK draws the distinction between girl and woman:
[22-year old girls] might say, I’m 22, I’m totally a woman… Not to me, sorry. To me you’re not a woman until you’ve had a couple of kids and your life is in the toilet… when you become a woman is when people come out of your vagina and step on your dreams.
If it’s easy to see how the girl label attaches to unmoored millennials, it’s less evident how it applies to women firmly rooted in the adult phase of life. But it makes sense if we read the “girl” narratives as corrective to the Louis CK threshold, the “girls” as women who refuse to let a little thing like people coming out of their vaginas ruin their dreams.
All the Single Ladies, journalist Rebecca Traister’s recent take on the rise of the single woman, opens with her childhood conviction that the marriage plot was less fairy tale than Shakespearean tragedy. “It was supposed to be romantic, but it felt bleak,” she writes of the nuptial trajectories of her girlhood literary heroes. “Paths that were once wide and dotted with naughty friends and conspiratorial sisters and malevolent cousins, with scrapes and adventures and hopes and passions, had narrowed and now seemed to lead only to the tending of dull husbands and the rearing of insipid children to whom the stories would be turned over.”
The girl books crowding the nonfiction shelf are written by and about women who insist on sticking to that wide path, women who refuse to Jo March themselves into a supporting role in their own life: girlhood as a state of mind.
The word attaches itself with special frequency to women in music and the sciences—not as diminishment of their achievement, but as its trophy. Girl in a Band, Lab Girl, Hunger Makes me a Modern Girl, Rise of the Rocket Girls: these are women who followed their girlhood passions into male-dominated fields and triumphed. Their stories speak of subverting gender expectations, breaking barriers, and—at least on the page—prioritizing work and art over the role of domestic caretaker.
In Girl in a Band, Kim Gordon pauses—briefly—in her tale of Sonic Youth’s rise to acknowledge the birth of her daughter: “Yes, she changed our lives, and no one is more important to me. But the band played on.” Gordon spent the first half of her career answering journalists’ inevitable question about what it was like to be a girl in a band; the moment she gave birth, they instead wanted to know: “What’s it like to be a rock-and-roll mom?” Her daughter might well be the most important thing in her life, but she’s nearly irrelevant to this story, which is about music, ambition, and the need to create. Gordon writes about her difficulties expressing her true self, relieved only by art: “For me the page, the gallery, and the stage became the only places my emotions could be expressed….Art, and the practice of making art, was the only space that was mine alone.”