I had other things on deck to write about. But something else has intervened.
I’m going to start by saying I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow. I’ve had weird symptoms for months and have been putting it off, but I’m finally getting down to business. At this point I have a wager, and am actually crossing my fingers in favor of autoimmune arthritis of some variety. While that sucks in some ways, there is a certain familiarity you feel after reading about a certain disorder for a long time. You hope you get stuck with the devil you know instead of something you never thought of before. Anyway – the reason I start with that is, whether I’m fully conscious of it all the time or not, it is coloring my reflections on other things. Whereas I am quite aware that young people, children even, can get diagnosed with various types of arthritis, it’s still something I can’t help but associate with being past a certain turning point.
In the shadow of this, I have been working on my unwieldy next album which is basically a decade of existential word-splooge. Some of it deals with being older and wiser after a history of having a certain type of addiction – that being addiction to the inaccessible, i.e, to attractions that are not viable. Where the album explores this theme, it mostly decides that the thrill brought on by that is not worth the accompanying sickness and exhaustion, and one is lucky to outgrow it and learn to appreciate a more stable, temperant brand of love. But lately, as I face the prospect of another chronic illness and try to hold on to my youth and sensuality (Ugh! This is officially sounding very midlife-crisis-ey), I’ve been acutely aware that a scrap of ambivalence about this remains. I’d be kidding myself if I said that the desperate longing for someone out of reach doesn’t sometimes makes a person feel more alive than the alternative.
This a concern that stays with me. I don’t need outside influence to cause me to reflect on it. But it just so happened that, at a time it already seemed especially salient, ContraPoints dropped the Shame video.
Let me go ahead and get my criticisms of this video out of the way. I’m a supporter of Natalie, but there is a point in the video at which her seeming to generalize her own experiences with typically female versus typically male attraction risks exaggerating a binary that is already over-emphasized in so much media. I also come away wondering if she perhaps holds too narrow a conception of bisexuality… and she indulges in personal venting in lieu of a scholarly exploration of all the reasons straight women might appear to be less attracted to male bodies.* I should also mention – and this one’s not a criticism – that I have always been pretty low on the shame scale myself, whether shame over the discovery that I could love women, or shame in relation to any sort of organized religion. So that is a part that – while the response to the video proves it was very necessary for many people – does not resonate with me personally.
That said, the video is still making me reckon with myself, and those things about addiction to unrequited love I mentioned earlier. It’s also making me wrestle with whether or not (as a queer woman with an unconventional palate who is also partnered with a straight dude and working with mostly middle-aged, church-going family-folk in the belly of a big corporation) I feel somewhat unexpressed/erased in everyday life.
The other night, before Shame was even released, I was lying in bed listening to Rialto’s (a lesser-known Britpop band) “Catherine’s Wheel” in my headphones. It was an acoustic version I’d just stumbled upon, having known the album version for years; I’d sought it out to show the DP an example of a song that sounds like a Bond theme but isn’t. It’s a woozy, lilting tune that captures the feeling of being intoxicated by someone, and it sparked an intense nostalgia – for what I wasn’t sure. Now I think it was nostalgia, not for a particular person, but for a long-gone variety of yearning, from before dumb things like arthritis were a concern, a youthful self-torture that hurt so good.
Now, listen… I wouldn’t want to go back to that. It really did suck. I hope Natalie and others who offered up their stories come out the other side like I did, having met a person who is my legit safe harbor. But nostalgia has its place: it helps you remember the whole of who you are, rather than just the little sliver you show of yourself in the office every day.
Finally – quick nod to yet another take on 500 Days of Summer I saw tonight, this an especially artistic and reflective one by The Royal Ocean Film Society that was really more about the changing significance of our favorite pieces of media throughout our lives, and the difference between coming to dislike a thing and simply outgrowing it. That essay, too, left me with the same slant-of-sun-on-faded-wall, ache-in-the-chest nostalgia feeling (despite never having seen/formed any sort of connection with the source material). Just the cherry on this gahdam maturity sundae, I suppose.
You know I’ve gotta put this here before I go.