Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Words: Usage & Abusage

One thing I realized over the weekend was how much I fill up space with words. I create narratives and explanatory schemes compulsively, without even meaning to, and sometimes without even being that invested in them. That’s a good way to succeed in grad seminars but it’s been a problem in my relationship with T., I realized. At one point we were talking about the female body, and I said how in college I had felt guilty about denying some (abstract) man my female body, at least to look at, as if it wasn’t all mine. And I don’t remember how we got there but I started constructing this whole thing about how her experience was different from mine, because her family was more hippy and mine was more conventional, and... somewhere in my torrent of words I heard her say softly, “But that’s how I feel when I walk down the street. I don’t want to walk out looking sexy, because I feel that men are looking at me and that I’m giving them something they’re presumed to have a right to.” I resisted the urge to bend this to fit the analytical narrative I was building. I asked her to say more about what she meant and what she felt. Maybe this sounds all Marriage Counseling 101, but it was actually incredibly sexy and intimate, because I was getting to know something about her that I had not known before and see inside her soul to a place I hadn’t seen before. What is more amazing than being trusted to handle your partner’s more personal self?

The other thing I realized is that the years of my total sexual repression line up exactly with a massive inability to write. Not in a professional sense. My dissertation outlines have been called “stimulating” and “exciting.” But I used to write pages and pages just for the hell of it. I used to write about my life, I used to write deeply personal love letters, I even used to write semi-autobiographical fiction like any normal twenty-something with a secret desire to be a novelist. Then I shared some of it with the wrong people at the wrong time and got hurt and closed down.

I’m still not writing entirely honestly, in an emotional sense, even on this anonymous blog, but it’s getting easier. Today on the train to London I wrote longhand too for the first time in such a long, long time, just about my life, the things in my head and the things around me. It was like a sigh of relief.

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