I’m dating someone who doesn’t consume me and I wonder if this is how it’s supposed to work. She is sweet, supportive and in love with me, which is objectively fantastic but I also find myself on my guard because she seems to like me exactly the way I am and nothing feels difficult. She tells me I’m perfect and I can’t help thinking, “Surely that’s because you don’t know me well enough yet, because I am a dragon.” I’m having a hard time with a healthy relationship because I’ve only ever been attracted to people who made me feel inadequate and moderately terrible about myself, which is messed up but I can’t help it. It’s like eating moldy oatmeal for years and then having your teeth break off when faced with a carrot. Something to get used to.
In addition to that, I’ll never not have the feeling that anything worth doing must necessarily be difficult, because I’ll never not be suspicious of the universe. In my vision the universe sits in an armchair smoking a cigar next to a bowl of chocolates and says nothing, silently keeping track of how many you’ve had. The universe will never tell you outright where you went wrong but instead sits watching with a knowing smirk as you struggle to work out your problem, then makes you second guess the solution. It’s not that it expressly wishes that you fail, it just thinks unstill waters make for more interesting sailing. In my vision the universe is not benevolent or malevolent, like a deity, just sort of trappy in general. Is this pessimism? I can’t be sure.
Two weeks ago my house was broken into and my laptop got stolen, along with my roommate’s laptop and a bone-dry tube of toothpaste. Mostly I felt extremely insulted. I wished the robber would have just asked for the laptop and given me a minute to load everything onto a jump drive first. Before I launched into a full-on rage, I remembered that I still had most of the novel I’m working on saved in Dropbox. The amount of disappointment I felt along with the relief was disturbing. I almost wished it would have all disappeared so I’d no longer have to deal with it at all. My right mind, obviously, was thanking the high heavens that everything had not vanished into oblivion, but still. Disturbingly, still.
“This asshole,” my coworker says of Karl Ove Knausgaard. “If My Struggle were written by a woman or a person of color, no one would give a shit about it.” He’s probably right. But I still think there’s something deranged and beautiful about a person feeling increasingly alienated by their work, having an impossible time writing for actual years, and in a frustrated effort to pinpoint where it hurts ending up with a six-volume behemoth of a manuscript and international acclaim. Whenever I try to pinpoint where it hurts I always end up starting to drink or cry, and also there are people who spend years in therapy and still can’t figure it out. So despite the fact that Knausgaard is a heterosexual white male and it would behoove my politics to feel “meh” about it, I still find his achievement incredibly impressive.
I was not impressed, however, by a tampon stuck to a board at an art show. There was not even blood on the tampon, or urine, or gravedirt, glitter or liquid latex. It was not pickled inside a mason jar or made into a heroin cotton. I instantly thought of the tampon in a teacup Margaret brings to her remedial art class in Ghost World, the “shocking image of repressed femininity,” but there was not even a teacup with this tampon, or an artist’s statement. Just a goddamn tampon stuck to a board. I was too frustrated with it to be intrigued, wondered if this inability to connect was the tampon’s problem or my problem and went to stand in front of a sculpture of self-immolation for the next fifteen minutes.