Dispatch #092821: The flutters of early ideas, and what I wore
Different things I have recently thought, remembered through what I was wearing
This is a public post from the Dispatches franchise. To read the last of its kind, click here.
I had this idea much earlier in the month when my head was buried in a pile of sand that seemed impossible to get out from under that I would take a break from pulling apart the flutters of thoughts that tend to come up when I’m doing anything but trying to pull apart fluttering thoughts.
Are they all worth the agony of breaking down simply because they excite me? I wanted a break from my head, that much I knew, but also, I think, I wanted to know whether they (the thoughts) would leave just as quickly as they came in. Which ones would stick around?
It turns out the ones to remain lingered in the pockets of clothes I’d been wearing, and let me just tell you, a two-inch heel is two inches too many when you’re chasing toddlers on scooters.
On the way to a community center in our neighborhood, they kept zipping past me except for three times when Madeline fell. She incurred no injury but consistently whined, “Why do I keep falling?”
The first time, I told her not to worry about falling, that getting up is what mattered. I wanted to take it back as soon as I said it — it didn’t answer the question, and made no sense lest I try to teach my children reckless fearlessness. Get up, absolutely, but know why you fell!
The next time I told her she wasn’t careful. This was strike 2 — such labels as “not careful” seem to be the kind that stay with you. Maybe they stick around because they’re not specific enough. So you scan your interactions trying to figure out why you are what this person you trust says you are. Madeline had on her helmet, she was staying in her lane. Not careful about what?
The third time she fell, I told her that the sidewalk she tried to roll over was uneven. She hadn’t seen that and the elevation made her trip. Maybe it is a coincidence that when she fell the next time, she just got up and went, and didn’t fall again, or maybe, finally, because I was paying smarter attention, she got an answer that she could actually use.
I wondered how differently any other person would answer the same question depending on their own conceptions of why we — people — fall.
Because you’re reckless, or you deserve it, or because your hand was dealt unfairly. Because you needed to learn how to get back up, because you could handle it when so few others can’t — there are millions of potential reasons to come up with, and these answers could be benign or pretty confronting, rubbing up against the insecurities I know I try to conceal in an attempt to pass myself off as normal.
Trying to understand a fall seems mostly to boil down to fear — avoiding it, resisting it, or overcoming it. In any instance, the mere question of why we fall indicates a desire to solve it, or push it away. But fear is a helpful, even essential tool for protection — necessary for survival at best. And at worst? A roadmap — nothing more, nothing less.
Have you ever met your fear in the face?
I had a really nice time at dinner with some new friends last week — they’ve all known each other a number of years, but I met them all, through one or the other last year when it seemed my head would never get out of the sand.
We were talking about sex and one friend, a straight guy — formerly married, with kids — presented an idea that seems obvious in intellectual hindsight, but had not occurred to me in any material way prior.
So it goes that I just want to talk. Be “seen” as it were through spoken word but maybe, in fact, consensual sex is just as pure an act of surrender, the desire as an expression of one’s willingness to expose themselves vulnerably.
Maybe it gets stuck under the political complications of intercourse, be they weaponized, manipulated, or simply possessed by power but I had never thought about sex this way — about the extent to which one person’s desire for it might be an act of the same kind of poetic vulnerability that asks, “Can you see me?”
How do you respond when someone musters the courage — overcomes their fear — to show themselves to you defenselessly whole? Can you handle it? Have it? Refrain from turning the light away from the witnessed as you remain a beholder? I don’t know that I’m there yet.
My daughter Laura asks me if these pants are pajamas every time I put them on to drop her off at school. They’re not pajamas but if you like them, I might suggest you actually get pajamas.
On one such walk home in these pants last week, I crossed a passerby who was dressed like she was going to work in a pencil skirt and casual blazer and sensible heels. It looked great. We made eye contact and I smiled but she didn’t reciprocate and that filled me with rage. Or no, that’s not right. I didn’t get angry. Or feel full at all. It’s more like actually, it depleted me.
Already my head had been in the sand — empty to emptier — and it was not her job to pluck it out. How many times must I have been in the same position, with my sensible heels and casual blazer and head someplace else as accidentally, I forged eye contact but couldn’t bear a smile?
I don’t know that I have ever identified as a people pleaser, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that I care a lot that people like me.
Yes, I like it when people like me.
“Do you like me?”
It’s such a vulnerable question. I wonder if this is what we’re asking every time a photo or story or reel is shared. If my peers — those who did not grow up on the internet but did self-actualize on it — face a similar condition.
Here many of us have had the great chance to achieve success by commercial measure on the internet — on these platforms introduced to us in our young adult lives. The platforms were layered over our own aspirations, reflecting the dreams we carried of crashing open the gates kept by the old guards of every industry that could be, but had not yet been digitized.
“I know what I’m talking about, right?
Am good enough, smart enough, right enough…right?
You like me, right?”
The internet was scary and new and validation from the gatekeepers, confused by this new place, was harder to come by. How, after could they validate anyone who was simultaneously being validated by the very platform confusing them?
In the earliest days, so many of us weren’t taken seriously by the guards whose attention we craved. So we, or maybe truly it is just I, turned myself over to the platforms completely, which chronically perpetuated — gamified, even, the desire to be seen — to be accepted, as it were.
The friends and the comments and the follows and the shares and the likes provided a backdrop from which we could tap in, take a hit, get the high, and leave.
Only after a while, the high wore off and we stopped leaving. The desire remained but who to get it from changed. Is changing.
Self-possessed young people full of honest intention and interest and energy beyond the bottom line seem to not give a fuck about any of this hoopla. The comments, the follows, the confirmation of likability. They’re right not to care.
I wonder how many of us still tap through the game, have redirected the pursuit of validation towards the new-new guard, bending ourselves into conceivable shapes, missing the punchline on the way over: they don’t care! It’s not their job to pluck heads from sand.
A note to remember to self.
I took a break from the pajamas because I had a breakfast meeting in Soho on a weekday morning recently and that — going to Soho — has become an adequate enough excuse to wear an overwhelming dress. The old me scoffs but new me goes with it.
Admittedly, it felt nice to show up at my kids’ school in actual clothes. I did it again the next day, just because I wanted to and have heard that drop-off outfits are “a thing” at some of the neighboring schools. Typically, it is spoken pretty cynically, but I took my time on the way home the next day and saw what I think they meant. Or, you know what, that’s not really what I saw — what I saw were past lives, clothes telling stories of personal ambition, or pursuits or desires in cessation, of those in progress, too. Of loneliness and togetherness, of self-determination.
Maybe drop-off is just an opportunity for a mother to confirm she still exists.
On a hike near Hudson, I parked my car and noticed when I got out that a giant, fuzzy caterpillar was crawling across the road, in and out of patches of shade that accentuated then muted its furry outer layer.
On the trail, “generic earthworms” as google called them slithered like snakes in and out of shade. In the sun, their backs glistened like rows of waves cycling through the Aegean Sea hours before sunset on the balmy August days of last summer’s remains.
Photographers are always looking for beauty I heard one say and it made me think that maybe one bright side of a relentless urge to capture then document then share the spoils of one’s camera phone is the unwitting pursuit to find beauty on even the most generic earthworm’s back.
At a party in Hudson, where the dress code was “rustic rhinestone,” I wore a pair of pink satin shoes with fringes made from rows of rhinestones and a suede jacket styled over a slip dress from one of the last collections Francisco Costa designed for Calvin Klein.
I’ve had that dress since the middle of my 20’s, when tools that saturated the pictures I took were the ones I most cared to use.
In my 30’s, it is sharpening — getting the shot clearer that has become my preferred photo editing tool.
I’m out of breath now, how are you? Signing off yours truly,