Wednesday, December 15, 2010

All the Pennies in the Thames will not make it how it was

"I can't stay very long," he said to me. "I have to be back in Crouch End to move out of my flat, you see..." I nodded, silently. I was silent in a manner that suggested I understood, not silent in the manner that suggested I was offended. But I was offended, you see, for it was my first night back in London and I had wanted to see my old friend. I had wanted to talk about music.

He smiled and humoured me, suggesting that we walk along Southbank as the sun went down. I took note of the things I had missed, the OXO Tower glazed in a gooey sunset, the ruins of another nameless church and its pulpit, flooded with cigarette butts, but we promptly ignored the beauty and the ugliness of our surrounds and retreated to our own world of blazers, musical love and lyrical sincerity. I had waited years to see him again and just when I felt most grateful for all of it, he said he had to go.

I sat alone on a water-filled barricade at the door of the Houses of Parliament. I had treated myself to an 88p dinner, an imitation Red Bull and two bananas. The light grew dim, I could not use my phone camera in such low light. I could only watch strangers and chortling tourists pass me by. I attempted to get onto my brother Andrew, but he was raging at a party in Hackney and would not answer his phone. Neither would any of my other friends.

As I ambled slowly up the north bank of the Thames, I contemplated what it was to feel so ill at ease with my city. In the silence of my own company, I could only think of those I had lost due to carelessness and indifference. For all the beauty, adventure and promise of London town, it all seemed to mean very little if I could not have those lost friends alongside me.

I stopped when I came upon Somerset House. The cream-coloured Georgian bricks glowed in a sodium vapour hue and I smiled. Loud music echoed and bounced off the walls, I realised that it had been five years since my first love and I had been there. I cried at that concert, even with his arms tightly wound around my waist. It was not an emotional response to the music, as such. Three days before, a bandmember of the performing band told me that he wanted to end our friendship. He never wanted to speak to me ever again. At the time, I could scarcely describe that disappointment, not out loud anyway. Instead I took a photograph that said it all to me: the night was over, the courtyard was deserted, the spotlights stretched out to reveal bent cups and indistinguishable debris. Every foot of that opulent space had been desecrated and I felt so completely wretched.

I started to walk towards the Strand when a woman suddenly accosted me. She grabbed my wrist and explained breathlessly: "I have to go now, but here, have my pass. It'll get you in for nothing. Here, take it, take it." She desperately attempted to reattach a fluorescent pink paper bracelet around my wrist, then she ran to her partner who had already hailed a cab. Confused and uncertain, I walked to the security guard of Somerset House and showed him my wrist. He told me to have a good night.

It was Noah and the Whale. Everything happened as it meant to. The band performed, the audience sang and the lights glowed. Upon hearing the first few chords of Five Years Time, a baffling sense of serendipity crept over me, a true sense of wonderment. There was the promise of meeting soul mates that night, new friends who could understand my every feeling and intent. But as I stood there alone with my broken paper bracelet, I wanted everyone to leave the courtyard immediately. I wanted to be alone with that moment I had lost.

Almost immediately after I recreated that photograph, my phone shrilled and vibrated. It was Andrew, agreeing to come to the Strand and save me. I later told him of my riverside loneliness on the 2am busride back to Paddington. I told him in the knowledge that I did not know true loneliness. It was not possible to be acquainted with such a thing. I live in the certainty he will always be there for me, even when all the others have gone.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Rules of Productivity

In my time as a procrastinator, I have become attracted to blogs and other websites devoted to the promotion of creativity. They offer boundless encouragement and guidance about how to go about tackling your next creative project. This is often delivered in the form of a list: "Top 5 Ways To...", "99 Excuses For..." and so on. All the relevant points are provided in bold text, so it's that much easier to run away with that positive message. In later times, I have been a bit skeptical of (but no less attracted to) these types of sites. I have recognised that I fit into their market of the creatively blocked. This disappoints me, as it would. Blockages are unpleasant.

What compelled me to write a piece in relation to these types of sites is one particular article I came across tonight: The 1-Step Plan For Super Productivity. In essence, the article maintains that the secret ingredient for productivity is getting up early. There are citations aplenty, from Ernest Hemingway to the Harvard Business Review, but how do 99% understand the nature of my productivity? I've maintained apparently dysfunctional sleeping hours for the best part of twelve years, what's to say I'll produce work of a higher quality if I go to sleep at 11pm, instead of 11am? I am unlikely to ever cease my consolidation naps, am I doomed to be creatively unfulfilled for ever, so help me gawd?

What these sites fail to acknowledge is that you, as a reader have developed your own individual coping mechanisms. Instead of encouraging you to understand and appreciate how you work, they offer rules. I appreciate the positivity of the message. I understand that they want their readers to go on to create wonderful work. The fact is that we place too great a reliance upon what they say, without acknowledging that we have solved it all before. We know what we have to do to be productive and it doesn't involve bookmarking a list of excuses. It's about a fundamental recognition: there is value in your expression.

So what the hell are you doing here? Get on with it. I'm going to bed.

Jan Pieńkowski's The First Christmas

Thursday, December 9, 2010


It's curious how you can miss someone you've never met. You can mourn the memory of one who lived and died before your time. Today is the thirtieth anniversary of the day Mark Chapman shot and killed John Lennon. It's difficult to fully comprehend the horror of that day, outside the Dakota building. There is an indescribable injustice attached to it, a kind of tragedy that constricts the chest and twists the gut. For all his wit, his humanity and untouchable creativity, he did not deserve to die as he did.

We love John. We talk about him in the present tense, as if he were one of our old friends. We refer to his words with ease and due familiarity. We sing loudly to his songs. We grin, harmonise and implicitly agree that I shall always take the bottom part. His music has underscored the most compelling of friendships. It continues to be subjected to the most lovingly relentless analysis, I'm sure it forever will be. Even now, I cannot listen to Abbey Road without recalling our promises to cover I Want You (She's So Heavy). I cannot listen to Yellow Submarine without chortling at the thought of us howling, growling and barking to Hey Bulldog. I cannot listen to Rubber Soul without wanting to resume our discussion about Wait. It's been six years now and I'm still waiting.

Every song is a lost moment. Every melody is infused with a personal meaning, every rhythm a universal consequence. I'm so grateful to John for all of it. I know that with him, there is the possibility to fall in love with these songs, over and over again. There is the chance of finding a new interpretation, a dubious method to understand that little band that little better. I live with John in the present tense, both grammatically and temporarily, as I do with any friend I've ever lost. I know I am likely to think of him as he was in A Hard Day's Night, turning left at Greenland or else snorting a bottle of Coke. He lives in 1964, with his cap, tight grey suit and that moderately gleeful façade. He looks just like him, y'know?

In spite of all his presence, his relevance and resonance, it's impossible not to miss him.

I don't know how it's possible not to.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cupcakes & Jealousy

I'll admit it now, without qualm or reservation, I am a jealous person. I am jealous of the skinny, the musically talented, the blonde, the productive, the confident and the focused. I envy the girls who stole the hearts of all my men and I envy the "it girls" of the world, who manage to garner attention for doing practically nothing. Although jealousy is hardly a valiant emotion, I think it is a noble thing to own up to it, for it is jealousy which is responsible for much of the bullying and intimidation that goes on around us. If we can take responsibility for our jealousy, we can untangle our desires, our motivations and possibly prevent the exclusion of a person who doesn't deserve to be an object of resentment.

I write this, as I recently had a remarkable surge of jealousy. My mother pointed out her picture in some Sunday lifestyle magazine. She was featured as some kind of an "it girl". She posed for a photograph and elaborated upon her kitschy, eclectic style. She mentioned clothes I would never have the bravery to wear, they would either too feminine or outrageous or else incompatible with my hip to waist ratio. When I knew her in primary school, she was a big girl, perhaps the biggest of our group. Since then, she has slimmed down dramatically. She is glowing and ethereal. She is a "blogger".

I visited her blog to survey her purported empire. It was doused in bright, rainbow colours, mixed with vintage hues. There were thousands of pictures of herself, posing. In one picture, she would be thinking of something serious. In another, she would be thinking of something fierce. She poses without doubt or reservation. Sprinkled among her self portraits were cupcakes. Photographs of perfectly designed cupcakes, so perfect that I wouldn't be surprised if they were made out of plaster of Paris. She spoke of making cushions, clouds in New York and her innumerable media appearances. Media appearances? Why? What for? What are you actually saying?

I was confused by the whole business. How could she possibly convey such a positive outlook when her upbringing was so similar to mine? How could she see so much beauty in the world, when she lives a few streets away from me? The jealous, insane part of me cried, it could have been me!, but I know it couldn't possibly have been. My world isn't rainbows, cupcakes, fairies and denim shorts. I do not have the candour of a nine year old child. Quite simply, I do not have the vanity to do what she does. I cannot post thousands of photos of myself online in the belief that my readers see any value in it. I say that in a somewhat bombastic acknowledgement that this is precisely what many of my favourite fashion bloggers do. But as much as I am attracted to their makeshift glamour and self-developed exhibitionism, it just isn't me.

All this makes me wonder if I am truly jealous of her. I think I am. I envy her cohesive visual aesthetic. She appreciates the quaint, the innocent and the beautiful. I am jealous of her remarkable output, even though she doesn't really say anything of great depth, it's great that she can produce so much in such a little space of time. I am perhaps most jealous of her purported fame. I say "purported" because I don't know if it's real. Is she a real celebrity or simply one in her own head? She has hardly any comments on her blog entries, does anybody care what she has to contribute? If she stopped, would anybody accost her to ask why? I wonder if she thinks these things, as I do. I know if she did, she would keep her thoughts well hidden from public view, as she is meant to.

I am certain that I'll likely be jealous of everyone til the day I die. I am becoming progressively more comfortable with this fact. I have to be comfortable with it, because I am forever examining at the qualities and attributes of others. I do not do so for the purposes of resentment. I believe I do it to refine my own values, to establish the personal qualities that I admire and long for within myself. I see a lot of value and inspiration in my old friend, but there are still so many questions left to be asked. As she progresses further and further up the "it girl" trajectory, I have to wonder: is she really the person I knew?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Love Yourself in Two Weeks

I was surprised when my clever friend Jamboshoeshine told me he had learned to avoid advertising in London. It seemed an impossible feat, after all advertising was an incredibly potent presence. Everything from the posters which punctuated the walls of the tube, following the gradient of the escalators, to the glorious corporate lightshow of Piccadilly Circus. I noted the tourist posters, invitations to Kensington Palace and Hampton Court. I recognised the seemingly endless run of West End musicals I would never attend. I also noted the lack of a hypodermic needle effect. I didn't suddenly feel compelled to spend money without due consideration. All I noticed is that I noticed them.

There was one particular piece of advertising that did remain with me. It was a poster in a bus shelter, across the road from Paddington Station. We passed it each day. At night, the message basked in a neon hue, orbited by moths and other insects. It was an advertisement for Special K. It featured an athletic girl, posing to emphasise her hips in the trademark red, one piece bathing suit. Her long brown hair had vague waves and her smile was broad, her mood ecstatic. The tagline proclaimed: "Love your shape in just 2 weeks."

I felt uncomfortable with that familiar promise. It was familiar, as I had seen similar consumer incentives in the past. Just try it! Even for a short time! We'll guarantee you'll love it! The Special K ad was different somehow. It carried a sinister inference of self loathing, an implication that physical pride can only come from weeks of starvation. I could never quite articulate it at the time, but I remember expressing my discomfort about it to Andrew: "Should it really take two weeks?"

It was only when I came upon the advertisement again at the Old Street tube that I realised what it was. This time, the Special K poster had been defaced. "In just two weeks" had been aggressively crossed out, over and over again. A speech bubble had been drawn and from the smiling girl's mouth, she said "you r beautiful as you are". I couldn't help but be moved by the defacement. Not only was it succinct, but it was a rare message to behold. We have grown accustomed to such notions of personal dissatisfaction, but it is never expressed so as to acknowledge the true nature of that core belief. It is an a universal mantra that millions of girls share: "I need to lose weight to be beautiful."

But how much weight do I need to lose exactly? When does that point of satisfaction come? After two weeks? Then will I stop hating my body?

"You r beautiful as you are" defies the traditional tenets of consumer desire. If our own idea of beauty is contingent upon buying a product, losing weight, getting that job, writing that article, making them love us, then we may never have our fill. The original piece of advertising seeks to reinforce the idea that self-love is possible. In two weeks time, no less. It would be remarkable to think that we are enough, that we are beautiful, in this moment, free of art and artifice. That is why I am determined to believe that defacement. After all, I don't want to wait two weeks to love myself. Two weeks is a long time and Special K just isn't that tasty.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

140 Characters or Less

I never thought I would succumb, but I have. One thousand, seven hundred and forty times over.


My first Twitter encounter was at work. I had to register several accounts to correspond with our many splinter companies. It was these splinter companies which would later become the source of the group's financial ruin. Voluntary liquidation aside, I thought it'd be great if I could start a personal account @missy_el, for it didn't seem as reactionary as status updates on Facebook. I had experienced the cruelty of impatient friends, proclaiming that they didn't care how many words I had written or if I had just eaten a truly delicious sandwich. Twitter provided for those momentary thoughts, those passing giggles that would otherwise be too stupid and inconsequential for Facebook. Maybe those thoughts and giggles are too stupid and inconsequential for Twitter, but none of our followers can be bothered to @us to tell us this is the case.

Another allure of Twitter is the prospect of connecting with celebrities we love and adore. I speak, particularly, of @StephenFry, who commands a rather sizeable chunk of my heart. Whenever he expands, explains or elucidates on QI, whenever he smirks knowingly as Jeeves or else dancersizes emphatically on Fry and Laurie, I know I am in love. My passion for his wit, warmth and intellect touches me deep inside. I once dreamt he was my boyfriend and he swooned, "Oh El, you're so clever..." It makes me chortle, the thought of his intellectual giant towering over my low-to-mid range intellectual stature. I would love to talk with him one day. Of course, my Dad would have to be there too, he is the only one I know who could ever compare to Fry. We would drink tea and talk about J. Arthur Rank comedies. This would make me happy.

In spite of these feelings, I try not to tweet him. I refrain from such delirious activities as best I can, but sometimes I cannot help but write a few characters and click "Tweet". You can't expect a response, he receives tweets every few seconds. But even in respect to someone such as Vince Clarke (@thecabinstudio), a person who manages to follow his followers, to reply to every question he's been asked, what could I possibly say? How could I possibly convey the personal consequence of a recording like Erasure's Innocents? In 140 characters, no less (how could you waste a single letter?). I would need pages, books to adequate describe its beauty and consequence and even then I don't think I could do it right. Perhaps I need to edit my thoughts somehow, compress them and make them conducive to a thoughtful response, or else forget the whole idea of making contact altogether.

I find it difficult to let go of the idea of making contact, although. As Stephen faces a seemingly endless assault of vicious personal attacks for what could only be described as an opinion, I feel totally powerless to stop it. What can I do? What can I say? He is not the antichrist, nor is he a misogynist. To even contemplate such a notion ruins me. He is entitled to his views on heterosexuality, as I am entitled to my views on homosexuality. This is completely fine. Misquote or not, irrespective of any defence whatsoever, I still support him wholeheartedly. For all the understanding and inspiration he provides, I could never do anything but support him wholeheartedly and tell him I love him.

I apologise for my heinous display of rueful gushiness, but there it is. I'm sorry I couldn't make the 140 character cut.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Damnatio Memoriae

"Alas, that the friend of my youth is gone! Alas, that I ever knew her! I might say to myself, "You are a dreamer to seek what is not to be found here below." But she has been mine. I have possessed that heart, that noble soul, in whose presence I seemed to be more than I really was, because I was all that I could be."

The Sorrows of Young Werther, Goethe

I once wrote that my writings were never about one person in particular. They were ripped up photographs of those I once loved. Perhaps that is selfish or vague, but I wrote and published work in the hope that they would read it and understand that I still held them in high regard. I could never communicate with them, not in the way I would have wanted. In any case, it isn't healthy or socially acceptable to be on such intimate terms with the past. Perhaps with such persistent feelings of yearning, I only ever wanted access to the past. I wanted access to a temporal impossibility.

I did love them, in the most authentic sense of the word. I loved their conversation more than anything else. Sharing witticisms over mochas in Brunswick St. Sharing music over MSN, mixtapes and long car trips. Sharing lengthy musical diatribes to one another. I was addicted to their words, not their lips. It was the truest form of intimacy for me, it glorified the past and challenged the mind. Now we cannot talk, I can only pass the things they would have loved, the things we could have talked about. Who knows what could have been said, maybe they had lost interest altogether.

There is no way of knowing their thoughts. There may be an oblique reference to us in a lyric or a tweet, but I would only be entertaining my vanity to wonder such things. Do they ever feel the desire to talk? To discuss the things only we cared about? It is like a young teen, angsting over a non-responsive crushling. In such circumstances I can safely say that in the case of personal regard, if one has to wonder how much they cared, they didn't care enough. Clearly, the Dolly Magazine education has worked a treat.

However, therein lies the paradox. I found their regard to be the most empowering, intoxicating thing. Friends, lovers, whoever they were, I saw these people as incredibly clever and enlightened individuals. But then, they swore that they did see something in me too. They spent hours convincing me of my skill and potential but I was too proud to acknowledge or accept their kind encouragement. It was a feeling of mutual awe that I could never adequately deconstruct. It was the clarity and the requited nature of it all never really made sense to me.

I didn't understand it, but I became addicted to that breed of attention. Although I would come to meet more and more people with similar interests, I was always in a perpetual state of mourning. I became addicted to missing my past. I grieved for one in the presence of another. I grieved in the knowledge that, in time, they would come to hate me too. Brothers and friends warned that this would be my undoing, but I have only realised its net effect in recent times.

It is when I revisited Goethe's Sorrows of Young Werther, that I understood what it is to be in love with the past. I always knew, on some level, that access to the past was analogous to access to my creative self. It makes sense when I think about it now. I would only feel spurred to create if I had their input, their influence and encouragement. In their presence, I was more than I was, because I was all that I could be.

So now I sit with my notes on how to build the empire. I wince and procrastinate and complain and I sniffle endlessly - I long to talk to you. You would understand all this. But somehow, I've realised that you, or rather the idea of you is all but a mirage. For all the laughter and compassion that we shared, there is a completely logical explanation as to why we must never speak. My desire for long winded d&ms is fuelled by the impossible situation we find ourselves in. We simply cannot speak. If my creative output is dependent on your speaking to me, I shall never get anything done.

That is not to say that I don't still love you. Our friendship was not a contract, where all our feelings rescinded upon expiration of the term. I will be forever inspired by your wit and your kindness and good taste, but I do not need to talk to you to be inspired by all that you gave me.

I do not need to know whether you remember me or not. I remember you.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Fear in the Critique - My Reluctance to Write Critical Journalism

I feel somewhat reluctant to start this, an exploration into why I am reluctant to start something else. It could be perceived to be a lengthy, overly dramatic excuse but I'm sure expressing it serves some sort of purpose. I'm not sure if I should write music reviews and I can't work out whether this is because I am fearful or lazy, or whether it because I am morally opposed to the critical breakdown of art. I don't want artists to be discouraged by my silly, stupid words. I don't want to point out all the moments that are hackneyed, that don't quite work out, but again there is little I can say to stress those perfect aspects, those moments that enchant me completely.

I fear that term, "mindless hyperbole". I've used it to dismiss so much of my work. I know that venturing into this kind of journalism will make me susceptible to that kind of reproach - both from others and from myself. This is because I have to describe the music for others, to evaluate its sound, to place it in some sort of a context. Who am I to draw out these analogies anyway? Who am I to accept or dismiss those who have the creativity to play their music for others, it's all I could ever wish for.

Maybe it's just not for me, not yet anyway. I acknowledge its value to others but perhaps I don't have enough conviction in my taste to do this just yet. I am more drawn to articles about musical culture - why do we love what we love. I love stumbling upon an article which debunks the mystery and motivation behind my musical self. It is something that I long to validate. It is like with every essay, every article, every podcast, I am saying this is valuable. My taste is valuable. All I ever mean to say is value your passion and be careful not to dismiss the valued passions of others.

Everything's Gone Green

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Why I Can't Write a Song

When I think about writing a song, constructing lyrics, a melody, chord structures and a hook, I feel physically sick. It's been this way for a very long time. But now, in my attempt to cure my writer's block, Julia Cameron stylee, I'm compelled to write the story of how it came to be such a grotty, apologetic mess. If, for no other reason than to satisfy my own vanity, it may give my reader(s) cause to think about the nature of their own creativity and why we are sometimes discouraged from doing the things we truly want to do.

There was a time when I used to write "songs". I used to write them a lot, actually. I once boasted that I wrote 80 songs in one (particularly melancholy) winter. They weren't real songs, not in the strictest use of the term. They were more like loose leaf poems, folded and bound together by hair-ties, living in disused Walkman boxes. They were typically about adolescent anxieties, very emo in nature. At that time, I felt it was a legitimate, very private way to express my loneliness and frustration. I never reproached myself for it, although now I could never bring myself to read those words again - perhaps out of sheer embarrassment but most likely because anything more than a vague recollection of that time is simply too painful.

I can't deny that I had outrageous daydreams of being a "rockstar", in the true sensationalist meaning of the word. This was long before meeting Gordy who promptly asserted that the correct term was "musician". It makes me chortle, after all "musician" has so much more gravitas than "rockstar". Anyway, I had these preposterous ideas of somehow staging a concert on the construction site opposite my house and covering Don't Let Me Down. I harboured such an obsession over that song that I even took up bass in anticipation this concert would actually happen. Unfortunately, the house was built before anything eventuated. The annoying neighbours moved in who, in time, would come to reproach me for not earning enough money.

It's so easy but I can't do it, so risky but I gotta chance it, so funny there's nothing to laugh about, my money that's all you want to talk about...

I stopped writing my poems for one reason or another. I think I might have fallen in love, or else I might have shelved my emo tendencies and started being happy. Who the hell can remember anyway, it's hardly important. The fact of the matter is that I stopped writing these poems. For a little while, at least.

The second songwriting era occurred in first year university. I had actually sat down at the piano and composed songs about midnight adventures, lust and human delicacy. They were slightly more developed songs, perhaps by virtue of the fact that there was a musical accompaniment. But I have to say it, the piano parts were rarely very sophisticated. I was surprised by how awfully poor it was, given the years and years of music lessons I had to endure. Again, I feel embarrassed at the thought of those songs now. I feel embarrassed that we actually recorded demos for them in Bundoora. The piano drags and the pitch is slightly off and the lyrics are so derivative. It was clear I was trying to sound like Morrissey or Dave Gahan or maybe even Neil Tennant, but I didn't sound like any of them. It was just awful.

Yet in spite of my negativity, Laur encouraged me a great deal. As my best friend, she allowed me to record demos on her Minidisc. She would subsequently listen to the "album" repeatedly and tell me which songs she liked. I still have a text message from her from six years ago: "Your album has gone straight to my no 1 most listened spot! It's like you're always with me when I listen to it!" Her support didn't reflect any kind of musical quality, moreso a delirious breed of wholehearted loyalty. It's funny how we can never accept their compliments, no matter how emphatic.

The last song I officially wrote was "The Lost Weeks End". It was a play on words, relating to John Lennon's period of hedonistic inactivity. It detailed my period of depression after discovering my crush didn't feel the same way. I slept for up to 19 hours a day. I did it to numb the pain, to get through the hurt. I don't think I ever recorded it, the subject matter was just far too grim. After that, I stopped for good. I got involved with radio, fashion illustration and awkward romantic scenarios.

I never lost the yearning to sing or to write songs, but I was just so totally appalled at my prior efforts that I had no idea how to legitimately do it. I'm too afraid I'll make something hideously self-indulgent or infantile or plain fucking stupid. I'm too afraid that people are going to be able to identify what I'm singing about, who I'm singing about. I'm too afraid that I'm somehow going to drift into a genre of music that I quite simply hate, just because I don't have the creative intelligence to do what I want to do.

I must allow myself to bypass these fears and start again. Afresh. This can be the third era. This can be great.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Resemblance

It was some years ago. I was in Year 12. I had successfully managed to overload and underload my workload at the same time. I had four subjects at school (English, French, Maths Methods, Music) and two subjects out of school (Latin, University Music). It had the ultimate effect of two spare periods each day to laze about, drink Diet Coke with a Lemon Twist and complain about how overworked I was. It's a shame, really, because I will always regret how I performed in Year 12. Some might say that the lazing about and coke swilling had an adverse effect on my overall performance. This might be so. But this entry isn't about my deplorable lack of effort, persistence or foresight. This entry is about my vanity. That old chestnut.

It was during one of my spare periods that someone told me I shared a resemblance to a famous lady. It sounds odd but this very rarely happened to me. Perhaps famous lady people just didn't share any characteristics to me, but it wasn't as if I had any desire to share a vague facial similarity with a famous lady person. It just highlighted that very universal truth, that all famous lady people are beautiful. I had come to terms with by own ugliness, if I can use that term. I didn't have any desire to tan my pasty white skin or else bleach my dark dark hair. I knew if I did, I would probably resemble many of the other girls in my year, but I would be betraying the freak in me: the girl with buck teeth and braces who loved Freddie Mercury far far too much.

It happened when I was finishing up a Latin lesson. I was saying my goodbyes when Nigel's wife suddenly said, "You look like a George Romney painting." She shuffled off to search for her art book in a back room of the house. She shortly returned with the page open.

I didn't know what to say. I could never gracefully accept compliments, especially in that instance. She was so stunning and although I could see the resemblance, in the colouring, in the facial structure, in the expression, I could never admit it. It would be denying that ugliness that I had become so accustomed to. I am ugly. I will always be ugly. I cannot resemble someone so beautiful.

Years later, it happened again when we came across her in Art History. Her name was Emma Lady Hamilton and she was the frisky mistress of Lord Nelson. I developed a very real affection for her actually, I liked her wanton tendencies and her interest in recreating the more bawdy episodes in classical antiquity. A group of us would be sitting in a tutorial, looking at a very similar George Romney painting when Joan pointed out the resemblance. I didn't know what to do when they all started looking closely at the lithograph, then looking closely at my face. I'm sure they were lying when they said they could see it too.

At this point, there is a twist in this story. I stopped thinking of myself as an ugly person, I'm not quite sure how. It might have been the dramatic haircut or the attractive boyfriend, but I could look in the mirror and not see myself as ugly, not as I once was. I had changed. I don't know what it was about being with him, but he somehow changed my perception of self, the understanding I had of my own beauty. Perhaps it was because I found him so completely and utterly beautiful. Maybe he said something nice about my appearance at some point. Whatever it was, I can't really remember.

The odd thing is that we once talked about this very topic, resemblances. It was on MSN where we mutually agreed that he looked like a cross between Julian Casablancas and Freddie Mercury, though I don't think he was too pleased about the Freddie Mercury part to be completely honest with you. When I sent him that picture of Emma Lady Hamilton, there was a pause in the conversation. "I don't see it." He said. I couldn't believe it. Why could he not see it? Does he not think me beautiful? What the FREAK?! It was his refusal to accept the very resemblance I refused to accept, in addition to his indifference for Queen's second album and his eventual infidelity which would make me dislike him very very much (although, probably not as much as I should).

For my reader(s): Who do you look like? Do you feel that this resemblance makes you any more of a beautiful person than you would otherwise be?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

I Should Have Loved You More

I recently confronted a boy I once knew, my best friend. I went to his house, armed with a letter in anticipation that he would refuse to speak to me. The entire context seemed so odd, this boy knew me better than I knew myself. He loved and encouraged me, then it all fell apart somehow. He eventually fell in love with a more worthy girl, then I fell in love with someone I wasn't meant to. I don't know how it happened, but I know that he will never forgive me for my purported mistreatment. I know he will never forgive me for refusing to commit to him romantically. I know he will never forgive me for falling in love with someone so similar to him. With that being said, I know that I must forgive myself if I ever wish to move on.

That night, he did agree to speak to me. It was so strange. For that half an hour, standing in the starlit courtyard of his apartment, I felt so totally overwhelmed. I couldn't believe he was looking me in the eye for the first time in ten months. Every few moments, I kept on exclaiming how different it was, how strange it felt. It was a different person standing before me, this wasn't my best friend. His body had changed, his posture was different. I don't know what the hell happened to his speech patterns but suddenly he had a lisp. He said that he never thought of me, that I was simply a blank to him. I just didn't exist. I said I admired him for being so strong-willed, for I could never forget the past so easily.

I write all this here because I have been thinking of the evolution of identity. Can you ever truly let go of the person you were? Do the matters that once touched you in the past suddenly bear no meaning once you adopt a new identity? What happens if that new identity is so thoroughly exciting and convincing, so brimming with musical and emotional success? It reminds me of the last words of a lost musician I once knew:

"That person up on that stage isn't me. In some ways it never was. The projection that you might have about that personality is not in the member of the band you see up there. He's just a puppet. I've long since stopped inhabiting him. I don't belong in there and I never did really."

There will never be a satisfying conclusion to all this, I will never find the answers for which I seek. But I know that I desire that which seems to be impossible for my mood and temperament. I want to change myself as he has, to make myself an identity that is so thoroughly exciting and convincing, so brimming with musical and emotional success. I want to make it so exciting and convincing that nobody will ever care to remember what I was like. How wretched and depressed I once was. I want to be the intimidating one, fearless and without any past.

I want to forget you.