running in the fields,
forgetting the names of flowers.
maybe they are false, made up.
but better the liar you know,
better still if the liar is you.
Thinking about the way people latch onto things, traits, sometimes extremes, to forge an identity – an identifiable identity.
I’ve known a few people who behave as though an overly enthusiastic interest in sex and uncontrollable sex drive confers an identity. I have often thought about how withering this is, when all actions and the entire personality is dominated by the sex drive and the drive for sex. This might seem scorching – glowing with promise and excitement – in a person who is young, experimental, but at some point it starts to be sad and macabre. It is not that older people should not be sexual (I’ve written plenty about this – there’s no age limit). But the clinging to youth that often comes with this personality trait can be humiliating for the person who clings to it too long, and eventually the “sex bomb” explodes in their face.
From Desperate Characters: “’Don’t. She doesn’t know what’s going on. I don’t tell her much. She’s like a demented Sherlock Holmes tracking down the ultimate clue. Sex is at the heart of everything, so morbid and so banal. I haven’t got anyone to talk to.’ ‘You’re talking to me.’”
When a person is abnormally obsessed with something – sure that other people are deceiving them, stealing from them, using them, cheating on them or whatever – it is often because s/he is guilty of those very same things. That is, if a person is a liar, a cheat, a thief, his paranoia that others are perpetrating those very things on him is heightened. I wonder about this. That person can also justify all of it. He may not have directly lied – he may just have misled or omitted facts. He may not think he stole when he feels he has just re-appropriated resources. Either way, he’s fooling himself and others – and has crafted his whole identity, whether he knows it or not, around this obsession.
As Paula Fox’s Desperate Characters highlighted, sometimes the ache of marriage is so slight, you barely notice it day-in and day-out … until you look at it either under a microscope or from a big-picture view, asking, “What have I done with my life?” And yet, many of us are conditioned to define ourselves and our identity through those relationships, however stale they become. Who would we be outside them?
“‘You don’t know what’s going on,’ he said at last. ‘You are out of the world, tangled in personal life. You won’t survive this…what’s happening now. People like you…stubborn and stupid and drearily enslaved by introspection while the foundation of their privilege is being blasted out from under them.’ He looked calm. He had gotten even.” -from Desperate Characters
“I’m sending you this photograph of me in my new car
but I hate to say I miss you cause you don’t need me any more
you’ve politely say, “I miss you,” but we know you don’t mean that any more”
-Foxygen, “No Destruction”
And then there are hipsters who define their whole being in ways that annoy everyone else around them (other than other hipsters). They are probably very similar to the peripheral characters Fox writes about in her book, despite pre-dating the existence of the hipster (what would these annoying characters have been called then when the book was written in 1970)?
“‘Look how late the light stays now!’ ‘The days are getting longer. I hope the locals don’t start up with their goddamn bongos.’” -from Desperate Characters