The last few weeks in my life have been uneven, and it’s been projected onto my entries here. As a result the content has been slightly off, uncalibrated, passionate but still vague, and without focus. I feel like I’m skirting the issue, the bigger picture, and yet it’s hidden in fog, invisible. All the last three entries have been tentative ventures into this murky psychosis, of what I’m trying to say, relate to or find peace in my life. A life unique, as all lives are, but they’re all to varying degrees. And the fact that all lives come without a manual, it stands to reason that the more unique a life is, the more unexpected and severe the corners, switchbacks and redoubts can be.
A lot has happened over the past few days. Prince died, Beyonce released her ‘Lemonade’ upon the world, and one of my highschool friends blogged about her own past, unintentionally lifting a lot of my own memories from that time, dredging the wet, dark, slime of my past with them.
It wasn’t her fault, of course. We haven’t seen each other in almost twenty years, and I doubt we’ll ever meet again. And even if there was the option to meet (i.e. at the ubiquitous reunion) I’m not sure I would attend. There would be nothing to gain, I am doubtful there would be any friendship to stoke, the embers long cold, and I’ve never been one to hold a relationship solely around the premise of past events. Life should always mirror the world, and move forward. There is no harm in looking at the past, but you should never stare at it.
Beyonce is a cultural icons for millions, and I think Lemonade is as powerful a cultural statement, regardless of the medium, as I’ve seen in recent years. By any artist. UK columnist Piers Morgan found it uncomfortable, for reasons, he said, that spoke more of financial greed and avarice, than that of genuine distress of the lives of black women in America. I think that’s just a traditional defense of the elites against something that might sway power away from their grip. A defense I’ve never understood, as it first chooses to belittle, condescend, and offer a dilution of the product, all under the guise of improvement, hoping that the advice will be taken, and the status quo, and their cultural superiority can resume.
Morgan said something similar following the Super Bowl halftime show back in February. I have no time for the man. To me he is the embodiment of a traditional England that has no place for people like me in it. The disabled, the artisans, those that don’t follow the status quo. Those that walk to the beat of their own drum. The outcasts, through choice, or circumstance, or both.
This is why I like Beyonce, and Destiny’s Child when I was in college. It is an odd state of affairs, given my background. A British girl, half Jewish, with bottle-blonde hair, and a look at the world that is, at best, guarded, and worst openly distrustful of the society around her.
Everyone wants to think they’re special. That they’re unique. Many days I just wish I was ordinary. The apartment, the cat, the boyfriend, thinking about whether to have a baby or not. The sibling who is a lot more successful, the sibling who is fighting off their addictions, and the parents who worry about us all. Birthdays, barbeques, Christmas, etc.
As Tom Wingo muses in ‘The Prince of Tides’: “There are families who live out their entire lives without a single thing of interest happening to them. I’ve always envied those families.”
And when I saw the adaptation, it made sense to me. Including everything from football, to mental illness, to the terrible power of memory, domestic violence, lost love and secrets.
Before anyone ponders this question. I’m not a wannabe. If I was any more white I’d be clear. I fully respect Beyonce’s position, and I’d like to think I can appreciate a degree of where she’s coming from, if only from the nexus of points that define the majority of people in the western world. That is, anyone who isn’t part of the white elitist, upper-middle class heteronormative world, which is a fair few people, and sadly I think this is the biggest divide between “us” and “them” there is.
One of the phrases my friend used in her own blog was “outcast”.
I was her friend, and in retrospect I think that line was fairly accurate, considering the time-period she was referring to. I was the stereotypical working-class pupil in the prestigious prep school (a stereotype so powerful, they would make tv shows and movies about it, aa generation later). I didn’t fit, and boy o boy did the boys and girls let me know about it. From the wrong style of shoes, to the hair style, I was just… poor.
Which is odd, looking back on it because kids don’t know they’re poor (or rich) for that matter, until they meet other kids who aren’t.
I remember I bought this girl a birthday card that year, 1994. We had geography, and while we were waiting to go in to class she told me it was her birthday. I don’t regret giving it to her, and I remember that it made me feel good. It actually got me ‘feeling’ again, during what I still consider the worst point in my life. The first four years of high school were hard, which is putting it mildly. To the extent that, even after years of counselling, I still find it hard to recall any specific points of that time. Nothing but the perpetual ache; sadness, suspicion, loneliness. But doesn’t everyone at that time (11 to 14) feel that way? That’s what diaries are for.
Although I was still eating lunch in a toilet cubicle in my freshman year of college, five years later. I guess I take longer to figure things out, huh?
I’d been reading the X-men since the cartoon landed on UK soil. So it wasn’t difficult to relate to The Morlocks. Yes, they were outcasts, but they had their own community beneath NYC. And that would eventually grow into Gene Nation, the young, angry, bitter offshoot of the original group. A group I could also relate to as I tried to figure out the world.
Marvel led to Vertigo, led to Preacher. And to Tulip.
Tulip was the first human, female comic character that swore, smoked and shot things (well) but also loved, cried, and had her own mental health and substance issues. And she was teased when she mentioned in school that she watched ‘Kelly’s Heroes’. Something that happened to me on a regular basis.
I love that movie still. It’s a funny film, but not necessarily a silly one. Oddball is my favourite character, by a mile. He’s goofy and funny and a stereotypical hippie, more than fifteen years before counterculture, but he’s not silly, or stupid. And while I adore the scene where the three Sherman tanks decimate a German trainyard, I always wondered where the scene was that showed the aftermath of his friends dying during an unseen skirmish, just before the big finale?
All we have is the line: “No chance man, they’ve both had it. One of them’s in the river, and the other’s on the other side, burning”.
I know they couldn’t show the scene, (budget constraints) but these were Oddball’s friends. It’s something that’s always stuck with me.
But Tulip. Tulip got grief for liking a “boys film”. I got grief too, for liking an “American film”. So I just shut everything off. Until I bought a birthday card for a classmate, who blogged about her own past with self-referential praise, happy to accept the moniker of ‘Mother Theresa’ to the outcasts.
I am too sensitive for this sh*t.
Which is understandable, if not excusable. The inability to talk fluently, especially when growing up, is debilitating. These days, as an adult, it’s less difficult, but the covert feelings of inadequacy, stupidity and distance still remain. As do the memories of the overt problems, even if those occurred over twenty years ago. And it doesn’t take much to make me remember those issues I have. And if a colleague in work does so, it makes me VERY distrustful. We’re “friends” in work, and we’ll see each other in work events, but anything more than that I have difficulty with. Like invitations for coffee or a movie. And that’s so sad, because I know in my heart that it’s stifling what could be a great friendship.
I’ve often pondered the scenario of what happened if the Holocaust occurred in recent times (not so much the actual genocide, but the efficient, Prussian, method used to implement it) would you make tattoo jokes around survivors?
It’s banter, right? “Hi Brian, I see you were thinking of getting another tattoo? What, the one on your forearm wasn’t enough? Lol, RAOTFL”.
What is Brian supposed to do? Laugh? Frown? Object?
That’s not the point, Brian can do whatever he likes.
I apologise if anyone thinks my example is too extreme, but it serves the point that it’s not a question of the specific circumstance. More so it’s a question of how a joke about someone’s past might not be that funny to the individual in question.
They’ll laugh, but don’t think they’re not storing the feeling inside, either voluntarily or involuntarily, where it’ll sit and earn interest. And they’ll remember the individual who told the joke. And not for happy reasons.
I don’t think the world’s against me. But I KNOW the world’s not for me, either.
So does Beyonce.
This, the world full of people who crack jokes at the expense of others. It is a vein of comedy that, sadly, my country is known for. We did give the world ‘The Back and White Minstrel Show’ after all. I ADORE comedy, and I love to laugh. But my tastes tend to sway towards intelligent dialogue and quick wit, (Adam Hillis, Joel McHale, John Oliver, the late Vic Wood, to name a few) often poking fun at institutions, celebrities, or society as a whole. Never minorities.
And I grew up listening to The Police and Springsteen. The latter singing a lot at how great life can be, but also how hard and unforgiving it is. Beautiful, inspiring, passionate, and poignant. None of this is silly, and shallow, none of this is parody.
Anyone in this situation recognises the untapped chaos that exists inside them. The trick is being able to harness it into something solid. All of the stuff I’ve listed here indicates I’ve found my window, a very large window, a security viewing-port, looking down into the internal starheart. The maelstrom of chaos, multi-coloured, and perpetually rotating, spilling out ideas and feelings.
My superego supervises this spinning chaotic empyrean. Clad in dirty coveralls, like some sci-fi roughneck. Weary, and tired, and wanting to quit, but knowing that staying and overseeing the containment is the right thing to do. She endures, like the Russians defending the Stalingrad traktor factory endure. With a wry smile, and a deep breath, and simple nod that doing the right thing is all the matters.
I can contain this, but sadly, I find it difficult to control. And I can’t stop it. People like Prince and Beyonce are iconic people, (obviously!) and in their lives they’ve learnt how to harness their demons, to turn their torment to their advantage.
I don’t have their ability. I have MY ability, which I’m still defining.
The above has been some examples of this passionate opinionate. It is honest, and weary and beaten. Repeatedly. But you can’t make ironwork without subjecting it to the hammer and the anvil.
I just need to find that trust. I have no problem in being one of “them”, as long as I have other “thems” standing beside me.
I’m currently reading ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’, by Ray Bradbury. The two main protagonists mirror one another; Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade. As different as day and night, but each one the other’s negative opposite.
Who am i? Well it’s obvious. I’m both. Untethered, and tossed about across the storm of this world, flipping all the time between the darkness and the light. But unable to moor. It’s exhausting, and it’s lonely. But it’s the only thing outcasts can do. We search for our own, and we keep our hands firm upon our sword hilts, and we keep a very, very open mind.