The trouble with all this withholding of pleasure
From my Instagram
I got my first tattoo recently. It was a surprisingly sensorial experience. I had anticipated only pain, but in reality there was hours of stillness, more than I had accomplished for a long time, and because the tattoo was on my back and I could not see what he was doing, there was all this immobilised surrender, too. He leant on me as he drew, and I tried to absorb his calmness through the touch, and the machine vibrated, and we stayed like that for three hours of silence before he suddenly burst forth with non-stop conversation for the next four. When he broke his silence it felt like I had earned something. And now I was receiving not only his anecdotes and memories, but also a sense of returning.
Both explanations are true.
What I say if I don’t know the person well:
Roses and tomatoes represent England and Italy. And my trip to these places was life-changing.
What I say if I know the person well:
The tomato has grown wild, maybe self-sown, in a garden of roses. And that is my story, too.
The Older I Get the More Comfort I Receive From Signs That the Seasons Change
A new season has arrived and the lavender has remembered to flower. The bees are still with us.
The windows and doors of the house are opening.
When we drive a certain route I wonder aloud to my son how long before we will be swimming in the lake again. Maybe we will swim in the sea first.
I am tired by work but I am alright because I can feel Christmas and my annual rest time coming.
My son says not long now until you will be making us Greek cold soup.
I am holding my breath in anticipation of the splendor of the jacaranda trees.
There are edgy bird parents everywhere and I wish them luck this year in successfully raising their chicks. Wish me luck back, birds.
My daughter reaches for me.
I have to send this before the season changes again.
Maggie Nelson on ‘Freedom’
On Freedom” is Nelson’s most clear formulation of what that nonpaternalistic care might look like. It has to do with how closely we are paying attention, or the effort we bring to listening. Nelson tried to articulate this during our drive, her thought for once losing its characteristic fluency, taking on a quiet hesitance. Thinking about how the internet has changed the way people exchange ideas, she mourned the fact that conversation seems to have become less spontaneous, more guarded. The internet “has made a lot of people I know feel like they’re giving depositions and everything’s being recorded. I’ve always really valued this idea of a public flow of idea exchange.” She paused as she maneuvered toward an exit. “On the other hand, I also think about the way that a lot of spontaneous response can also be pathological, unthinking, larded up with defenses or unwillingness to sit in silence or not making enough space to hear what someone else is saying.”
From The New York Times
Life in Lockdown
Like diets or abstinence or celibacy, lockdowns make you obsess over what you do not have, which is a feeling I actively try to avoid in life.
Gratitude is profoundly stabilising (and anti-capitalist), but very difficult to manifest in a space of withholding, which signifies not scarcity but denial. Were it simply scarcity, one could find some pleasure in the joys of simplicity.
But the feeling of calling out in need and that need not being met denotes insecurity, and frankly, that plays havoc with everyone’s undiagnosed anxiety.
The same for all the motivational speakers, the promoters of perfect skincare routines, my neighborhood’s community Facebook page, the ineffective and the delusional among our leaders. Flood yourselves with feelings of abundance until you feel calm, again.
The Way Music Affects People
This is a tiny bit of gorgeous joy - watching Richard E. Grant briefly talk about his favourite new album. It is like you have called in for a cup of tea with him and this conversation is just for you. I love being in the presence of awe.
We urgently need to prioritise this kind of pleasure in our life.
A Debate About Class and Art Played Out Through An Argument
Have working class musicians done enough to include political protest in their art?
Jason Williamson (Sleaford Mods):
Creatively speaking, Noel Gallagher’s got blood on his hands.
Ever since Thatcher got in and cut everything to the bone, it should have been protest music all the way.
Ok, so how do you feel about that, Noel?
Noel Gallagher (Oasis):
Yeah. Well tell them from me that I’ve got blood on my hands and fucking champagne in the bath.
Like, if I can’t dance I don’t want to be part of your revolution3?
Oasis were raging, but we were raging joy and the sun was out in the songs, if you can’t see the rage and the yearning to better yourself in rock ‘n’ roll style you’re dead to me. And protest songs: fucking bollocks. ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’ is a protest song, and the message in that is ‘Fuck your recession and fuck you and your government, we’re gonna have a great time.'
What price for authenticity in art? Can criticism about sincerity in art.. kill art?
Eventually, there will be no more Marc Bolans, these flamboyant guys, or David Bowies creating their own worlds. D’you know why? Because you will know everything about them from the internet.
There’ll be no magic. There’ll never be another Bowie, or people driving round in gold Rolls-Royces, because cunts like Sleaford Mods’ll fucking sneer at them. And rockstardom will die. And what were we all brought up on? Looking at Bowie and going, 'I want to fucking be that guy!'
Fair enough. But if the danger and disadvantage inherent to the working class experience is part of the appeal of working class art, then isn’t authenticity important?
It really pissed me off, y'know, all these cunts playing the working class card. They said goodbye to their roots a long time ago. Fuck off.
What are they saying about the younger generation? What are they saying about the working class? What have they ever said about the working class? Nothing, fuck off. It's like Gallagher, he's the same. Playing up to the working class thing - he still thinks he's working class. No, no no no no - it doesn't work like that mate.
Does Jason have a valid criticism there, Noel?
There’s no joy in that, is there? It’s just two guys, one clearly mentally ill, who’s just shouting like Brown Bottle about fucking cider and fucking shit chicken. Yeah, that would’ve been fun wouldn’t it, at Knebworth. ‘Good evening ladies and gentlemen, and while we’re all here’, while all the people at the back are on acid and E, ’round of applause for the miners, wahey’. Fuck off.
Your thoughts on that assessment of you?
That was brilliant. I felt like he really got it.
Jason, tell us more about the accusation that some artists are “playing up to the working class thing”?
Imagine you’ve got limited options, unsure how you’re getting by that week, looking out the window of the damp flat you don’t want to live in, and seeing a bunch of posers having a photoshoot because ‘cool architecture bro, we feel your pain’. Reduced circumstance isn’t a pantomime. If you haven’t lived within its confines don’t use it to enamor your ideas. It confuses the platform for those that truly live it and more often than not buries creative breakthroughs because the arena is polluted by the view of their world through someone else’s privileged lens. So beware the eager networkers, don’t settle for the 20p pay-out, nudge it, pop the posers. And don’t apologize for the fucker either.
Thanks for the conversation, gentlemen. On that note, let’s listen to the Sleaford Mods’ brilliant new single on class tourism which features Australia’s Amy Taylor.
This article, Why Managers Fear a Remote-Work Future is filled with so many astute observations that it was impossible to pick just one to quote here. A must read!
It’s rare that I feel men really capture the domesticity of family life but, Alain Laboile’s work is sublime.
It is so lovely when you find a term for what you do and love.
“I’m always thinking about creating a slightly unexpected moment,” she says. (Secret Gardens)
The Meaning of It All
Whenever the experiment on and of my life begins to draw to a close I’ll go back to the place that held me and be held. It’s O.K I think I did what I could. I think I sang some, I think I held my hand out.
- Jane Mead (1958-2019)
Parenting on Screen
Days of the Bagnold Summer is not actually set in the lockdown, but it feels like it in this story of a mother and her teenage son. I read a couple of reviews that really didn’t get this film at all, as is often the case with films about motherhood. “Cringe-inducing”, really, Ms Laffly?
But instead, here’s this well-observed review about the film here in The Guardian:
In one sublimely tragicomic sequence (bizarrely reminiscent of an infamous scene from A Clockwork Orange), Sue is seen whizzing at high speed around the kitchen, performing endless chores while Daniel sits utterly still, unmoved and unhelping, as if the two are literally living in the same house but in different time zones.
You can watch the trailer here.
As Always, Letting Go
There was a time, way back, when parents had teams of children to work on the farm and the kids didn’t have any rights of their own. In my mother’s childhood, a seen-and-not-heard affair, the goal was to raise well-behaved, upstanding types to present to society. In my own, we were sent out to play after breakfast and called home at 6 p.m. for frozen pizza, canned lima beans and an Oreo on a TV tray.
Today, the child is not a laborer, a set piece or a mouth to feed. Today, for (much) better and (maybe a little) worse, a child is potential to be nurtured and a relationship to be relished. Whether the ferocious investment in this generation has been in service of our kids or of our own egos is a question for another day. Whatever the case, when parenting became a verb, children became projects, and projects are easy to claim as one’s own.
It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, the psychologist Ariel Trost told me. “If we can let go of this notion of ownership and see us as our own and them as their own, it can create a space to marvel,” she said. “Ownership is not closeness.”
Borrowing from Buddhism, Dr. Trost suggested aiming for a compassionate detachment. Not detachment from our children but from the outcome of who they are becoming. “We are working toward a place where we can enjoy each other,” she said.
From Kelly Corrigan, “How to let go of your irreplaceable, unstoppable daughter” in The New York Times.
Find Me Buried Under the Weight of Meal Planning
This newsletter from Virginia Sole-Smith, which spotlights the tyranny and misogyny of meal planning in a family is not only interesting, but also.. helpful:
The problem with a whimsical approach to dinner is that sometimes your inspiration comes together in 20 minutes, but sometimes you’d rather make something that takes an hour, or requires an ingredient to be defrosted or purchased. Once you have kids, you can no longer play fast and loose with the hours of 5 to 7pm.
Hen Keeping Aids Philosophical Contemplation
Christine H. Lee’s piece in Catapult is a great read on hens and female friendship.
When my marriage fell apart shortly after giving birth, it wasn’t men who came to my side. It was women.
The two flocks eyed each other warily as I introduced them to each other. At first, the younger birds roamed outside the main flock’s coop. Then I let out the main flock so the two could free range together before finally, I put them all into the same coop at night.
Italian Saying on Alliances
Today you have a problem, tomorrow I have one.
The Justice System Does Not Work for Crimes of Sexual Assault and Abuse/Today You Have a Problem
My husband said if I found out a man I knew did that to one of ours I would not be able to stop myself. I would find him.
You might go to jail for that, I said.
I could survive jail for five years, he replied.
That’s a pretty significant assault, I thought. And gosh, I love this man. I am sorry, but there is a part of me not ready to let go of this answer until we have something better for these monstrosities.
There Isn’t Enough Advice for the Estranged
But here’s some from Cheryl Strayed.
Love Affairs and the Middle-Aged Woman. Also a Subject Not Written About Nearly Enough
I have enjoyed recently discovering Jane Gleeson-White’s blog. Everyone has been, rightfully, talking about her piece in The Guardian on the inherent sexism of economics, which is written with a beautiful kind of controlled anger, and as a feminist economist with some controlled anger, myself, I always appreciate seeing this stuff being talked about in the mainstream, but the real fun is in her blog about middle-aged romance:
Here’s a post I liked:
It’s ok to be ferocious, excessive, and throw yourself headlong into extreme love affairs when you’re young. But even in your late twenties or thirties it’s getting a bit questionable in the eyes of the world – read: in the eyes of your father – because that’s when everyone – read: all good girls – is settling down with a career and a husband and a house. I did not seem able to do that. I tried twice to be a good girl.
But falling madly in love and lurching from man to man in your fifties? That’s not so pretty. That’s Jean Rhys territory.
My Longest Platonic Male Friendship is a Man I Met on a Chatline Twenty-Five Years Ago in Another Hemisphere
Shame we don’t live closer, he signed off with in our recent phone call. Speak later.
Poems I Have Been Enjoying That You May Want to Read as Something Like a Pause Before You Re-Enter the Day:
A Poem on That One Uncle We All Know
by W. J. Lofton
the wasps are angry drunks says
your mother, just like my brother was
always around the corpse
of an almost finished bottle buzzing
with all that loneliness inside him
a sound inside a sound. click.click.
goes the tongue of each man passing
drinks with already dissolved secrets bubbling
into an invisible violence. we all know
one uncle whose laugh shakes the polar caps
on mars and whispers a double jointed prayer:
throwing down ain’t nothing but a thang
click. click. click. call Clair
and see if she don’t call you a liar. I am the man
in every man’s dream. click. click. click. click.
someone tell your mother the difference between fermented fruit and a Quaalude quietly
sailing its way through her nervous system
who turned me into a corpse? your mother asked
after she woke up dizzy, her body a sound inside
a sound. when the man in every man’s dream slipped
her something to drink, clicking the pink tyrant
in his mouth years after he left
her body undone. click.click.click.click.
do not go swimming in the bed of lazy men
by W. J. Lofton
men who do not make you feel
new again. can he tell you when he first drove
his moans over the cliff of a quaking body?
have you ever been able to catch him speechless?
your mouth on everything hot. his too!
everything is a gift as long as we ask for it.
follow it with a yes - a most devastating smile.
destroy me. witness we black boys breaking.
becoming spring’s confetti - summer swooning
leaving bodies slicked in swears. say, do not grow
tired. do not say, I love you - unless you are able
to forgive him. do not forgive him
until you have looked him dead in the eyes
in front of the mirror.
you are your own best thing
so bring him to experience every ecstasy you can
and cannot afford. may your lover be generous
as God. may your body offer hell if he is not.
by Mary Oliver
I had no time to haul out all
the dead stuff so it hung, limp
or dry, wherever the wind swung it
over or down or across. All summer
it stayed that way, untrimmed, and
thickened. The paths grew
damp and uncomfortable and mossy until
nobody could get through but a mouse or a
shadow. Blackberries, ferns, leaves, litter
totally without direction management
supervision. The birds loved it.
by Mary Oliver
There are moments that cry out to be fulfilled.
Like, telling someone you love them.
Or giving your money away, all of it.
Your heart is beating, isn’t it?
You’re not in chains, are you?
There is nothing more pathetic than caution
when headlong might save a life,
even, possibly, your own.
I have more to say on everything… ageing, love, parenting, work, pandemics.. but I am processing some things. Back with more soon, lovers.
I am not without sympathy for the concerns being raised about our response to the pandemic, and of course, one can agree with the broad direction of something while still debating some of the elements involved. But I am suspicious of any fight for freedom that is so closely mapped to the desire to inflict on others precisely what one is arguing has been forced on them . If freedom is the right to be liberated from confinement, yet therefore forces confinement on others? If freedom is the right to be exempt from external control, yet seeks to interfere with others?
The secret truth is I don’t hate lockdowns. But notably, I haven’t had to experience a sense of ‘endlessness’ to the lockdowns I have been through, like some. And my home is a sanctuary. It has green space. And I live with people who love me. I have secure work. I have been able to ‘take root’ there. Living through a pandemic has made me even more passionate about renters’ rights. If you cannot have sanctuary, then you have no possibility of repair, either from your own fears or everyone else’s.
Good interjection from anarchist, Emma Goldman.