Thursday, August 28, 2003

I apologize for not having written much lately. I really need to write more often. If not for the sake of retaining whatever readership I have here, for the sake of my own mental clarity. Blogging sort of normalizes life for me. Sometimes it seems like my life is out of control. But when I read it on a computer screen, I can’t help but think of how terribly domestic I am.

I don’t know how to start the diatribe I’m about to go off on. I don’t know how I’m going to translate my crooked thoughts into words. I don’t know why I’ve been thinking the way I have recently. I’ve felt very off-balance lately, and I think that maybe I really am a little unbalanced.

When we were in Europe, Jody was always trying to make me more outgoing. I got the feeling very early on that she thought I was a little freakish, to put it mildly, and being my usual stubborn self, I didn’t do anything much to try to ease her worries. Our first night in Rome, I remember telling that I could fairly easily deal with being alone for all eternity. While it would be difficult for me to part from my family and the friends I already have, I would probably be perfectly satisfied in life if I didn’t ever make a new friend, and I spent all of my time in only the company of a well-stocked bookshelf.

On a separate occasion, we were talking about the same basic subject, human isolation, in a context unrelated to my own (she’s too polite to ever say something like this about me in concrete terms), and she said something that I’ve been thinking about ever since. While I can’t quote the conversation, the thrust of her argument was that people have to involve themselves in human relationships because it keeps them “normal.” Humans are naturally obsessive beings and a solitary human obsesses over their own weaknesses and faults to the extent that they normalize, and maybe even fetishize them.

My point about human isolation had always worked on the same basic principle. Human beings are naturally obsessive. And a human being in a group continually denies the self for the sake of group unity. The temptation for the social human is to destroy any sign of their own individual goodness, and to delight in the shattering of others’ individual goodness. I’d always considered individuality a chief virtue, just as she’d always considered collectivism a chief virtue. But her argument still struck a chord with me.

I wrote a poem a while back about a Gollum character of sorts. While I hadn’t actually been thinking of Gollum, he could have easily been the archetype from which I drew my material. I wrote it at a time when I was obsessed with the concept of man being made in the image and likeness of God. Though the story of the character in the poem bore no relation to my own life, the character was, in the most loose sense, myself. The “Gollum” of my poem caught a deformed reflecting-pool image of his abused and battered human flesh, and, removed entirely from self-hood, asked in third person, in whose image the creature in the reflection had been made. There didn’t seem to be any God left in that deformed creature; how could there ever have been any God in that thing?

I see a connection between Jody’s vision of the solitary man who fetishizes his own oddities and my Gollum, and thereby, myself. It’s an inescapable fact that I’ve always been a little eccentric. I always chalked it up to an early sense of the value of my own individuality. But it’s just as fair to attribute it to my utter lack of socialization. And I can’t say which came first: My insistence on being my self, even if being myself meant doing the socially backward thing; or my own early inability to socialize properly, resulting in continued and increased socially awkward behavior, and the necessity of a moral justification for that behavior.

In the summer, I don’t see other people very often. I tend to enjoy it on the whole. I like to feel removed, to feel very much myself. But I also enjoy it because I don’t feel socially constricted; I like not having to worry about pleasing anyone but myself.

Last night, Angela and I spent hours reading over all of the notes she’d saved since Jr. High School. I drew some unexpected conclusions from reading over those notes. While I never really considered myself the tie that bound my friends together, I realized last night just how emphatically periphery I was. I think I gained fewer mentions in those notes than literally anyone else in our group. And all of my mentions were very vague; the most extended narrative that showed up regarding me were three sentences from a letter my friend Amanda wrote in Seventh Grade, in which she complained that I was spending too much time with my boyfriend. I shouldn’t feel so special, she wrote, because it wasn’t like anyone else would have me if my boyfriend would have dumped me.

While I still object to the idea that I was spending too much time with my boyfriend (in reality, I never even so much as sat with him at lunch – we went out on something like a grand total of two dates), she was absolutely right about no one else having me if he had dumped me. No one else would have had me because I was always a freak. I was emphatically freakish, emphatically solitary, and utterly unconcerned about it. I didn’t mind being a freak, if it meant that I was a freak. I viewed the vast majority of people around me as posers, and figured my own oddities were superior to someone else’s feigned normalcy. It’s a creed I still live by.

But maybe I shouldn’t. Objectively, there’s nothing superior about my own oddities. They make social relationships difficult for me. People as intentionally ugly as myself not only don’t often find boyfriends, but also have a much harder time finding jobs or even getting service at a restaurant. A phonier, more aesthetically pleasing version of myself probably wouldn’t have had to have feared getting beat up in Jr. High School.

In the past few years, I’ve realized a lot of things about my own social behavior. I’m always the most periphery of characters. I’m never anyone’s best friend, nor the person that anyone goes to any special length to be around. I’m never the funniest or the best looking or the most exciting, and certainly never the most popular person, even in the smallest of groups. But I am often the steadiest. I generally require the least personal attention, and I’m willing to give the least personal attention. In short, I’m sort of like a dispassionate safety net; on a good day, nobody notices me, but in a fix, I’ll make do.

It’s the kind of role that I’m uniquely suited for. It satisfies my need to be solitary while tempering my solitude just long enough to keep me from throwing myself off the deep end. I have a mystics temperament, and I’m very prone to thinking myself very important, and thinking that I have very important thoughts to think. And while that’s a fine enough life for a hermit, it doesn’t cut it when you have to deal with people who aren’t as convinced as you are of your vast moral superiority. My personality tends to extremes of self-aggrandizement and self-hatred. But my friends are always quick to assure me that I don’t deserve the former, and generally amusing enough to distract me from the latter.

It may be that my summer isolation is the thing which is currently causing my imbalance. It may be that, left to my own devises, I’ve begun to fetishize my own self-loathing. And without a good and proper distraction, like someone-else-loathing, I’ve fallen off track. But like a proper Gollum, I hold most dear my poison. It may be that I’m more attracted to my own distorted image than I am the image of God within myself. It may be that, just as when I was an infant, and would run to mirror to watch myself weeping, I’ve unconsciously fled from the source of my true comfort. I crave my isolation and I fear its eventual and inevitable end.

Summer is drawing to a close. School will begin soon. Formal life will resume in just a few short weeks. I’m as utterly average as usual this year; and still only just unique enough not to matter very much. But I hold out hopes that maybe this year could be better than the last.