American Psycho by
Handful of DustVile Bodies
If you change the way people think, she said. The way they see themselves. The way they see the world. If you do that you can change the way people live their lives. And that’s the only lasting thing you can create.
— Chuck Palahniuk, Choke, p135
They always tell you to write about what you know. So I never wrote because I felt that I was too young to really know about anything. Last winter I stayed at a woman’s home in Vienna. She was nearing forties and recently divorced. She lived in a one-bedroom apartment where she would proofread and subtitle other people’s works for a living and then read self-development books before going to bed. She wanted to be a writer. That’s why I had asked to stay with her. I believed that people who wanted to write must want to write because of a need to express all of their reflections on life, and that people who reflect are interesting to be with.
Our time together was marked by silences, and fragmented conversations holding them together like neat gift boxes of nothing. I felt like I couldn’t talk to her because I couldn’t understand her. I didn’t know (and still don’t know) what it feels like to love someone so much to move to foreign country for them, to have so much of your life shaped by them and then to talk about them as an ex-lover to a stranger sipping tea in your one-bedroom apartment.
I then realised that if I couldn’t write about all these things in life, I should just write about what I do know about - being young and what it meant and means to me.
I was reading a book called ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ tonight. It was recommended to me by a girl in highschool, who I thought was very interesting and clever, but now realise was very sad and fed us lies about a double-life. I had always meant to read it in highschool, but am glad that I have only read it now. The adolescent observations and reflections of Charlie (the voice of the book) remind me of my own - which are only interesting and valuable in retrospect.
It saddens me to compare the level of emotional engagement and sincerity I had with the world as an adolescent to that which I have now. I used to actually think about whether people were happy or not. I used to sincerely wish that every good person I met was happy. I used to listen carefully to everything they had to tell me about themselves - it was all precious and crucial to me genuinely understanding them. I used to think that friendships would last for longer than I had lived, if not for a life-time.
Isolated by preoccupations with romantic relationships, finances, and work, friendships rarely mean what they used to. Friends, like everything else, are part of a landscape - a setting for your life that you merely pass through and leave behind along with all the listless conversations and half read books.
Once Uncle Julian told me how the sculptor and painter Alberto Giacometti said that sometimes just to paint head you have to give up the whole figure. To paint a leaf, you have to sacrifice the whole landscape. It might seem like you’re limiting yourself at first, but after a while you realise that having a quarter-of-an-inch of something you have a better chance of holding on to a certain feeling of the universe than if you pretended to be doing the whole sky.
My mother did not choose a leaf or a head. She chose my father, and to hold on to a certain feeling, she sacrificed the world.
— Nicole Krauss - The History of Love, 2006 pp. 45-46
I think that the female equivalent for what a man feels when accompanying his girlfriend shoe-shopping, is shopping with her boyfriend in a video-games/electronics store.
- Migs: Have you been stalking me?
- Me: No, you have nothing to stalk anyway.
- Migs: Yeah, All I have on fb is that I entered a competition to win a coffin anyway.
- Me: What? Why would you want to win a coffin?
- Migs: Have you SEEN this coffin?
Yours is the first face that I saw
I think I was blind before I met you…
And you said “this is the first day of my life
I’m glad I didn’t die before I met you
But now I don’t care I could go anywhere with you
And I’d probably be happy”
— Still my favourite love song. It’s how I feel about you.
For the past 3hours I have been looking into online networking, and I must say that it is the most depressing ordeal to go through.
First, I wanted to start a twitter account for a food-blog I share with a friend so that we could post instant updates on where and what we’re eating. I thought it’d be a good idea to follow some people in the food-blogging community with the hope that they’d maybe, just maybe, follow me back and post about how cool we were… I typed in the search-term ‘food’ and a whole list of food-bloggers and food guide publications came up. I had heard of a lot of them, such as Chocolatesuze, tablefortwo, Jenius and notquitenigella. I was then overcome by the usual hypnotic trance of Internet-surfing where I lose all sense of time and get caught up in a never-ending chain of links. All of the people I read about were extremely successful, at least in my eyes. Jenius is only in her 20s and she already has her own tour and marketing company. Notquitenigella is about to have a book published, and tablefortwo was on the 2011 Masterchef television show. Overcome by a sense of inadequacy, I closed the numerous tabs and decided that I wasn’t passionate enough about food to dedicate my life to it anyway.
Feeling quite despondent, I opened up Facebook to distract myself. From experience, Facebook also makes me feel rather inadequate. The first minute is usually spent scrolling through updates by people who I hardly, if ever, contact. The next minute is spent clicking on one of their profiles. Then I might see a photo that they’ve recently posted up which would often lead me to go through all their photos and ultimately become the most pedantically nosy stalker alive. Through the hypnotic trance of internet-surfing trance, I have now ended up on a friend of a friend of a friend’s profile. They’re smiling, no beaming, in every photo and looked like they were having a lot of fun with a lot of friends. By now, I felt like the dessicated piece of cat faeces on our front lawn in comparison. To make things worse, they happen to be steps ahead of me in terms of career progression. They’re working as a paralegal in a top law firm as well as a PR intern at a top agency.
I then went on linkedin, which I had recently joined to boost my employment prospects in PR or law and added some more connections. I realised that all of my contacts who were law classmates had been working for top-tier law firms for a while now.
I realise that networking is a requirement for PR experts and that’s why I had been trying to get more into it, jump on the boat with the rest of the masses. However, from my experience of social-networking so far, I’m surprised that public relations hasn’t joined accountants and lawyers in the ladder of most depressing professions.
Aimlessly applying for jobs and sitting through interviews, unable to feign enthusiasm, I feel the inertia spreading like gangrene from the the tips of my fingers and toes. I realise that the solution was not to ‘fix myself’ by trying harder in applications and interviews but just do things that I genuinely find interesting or fun.
Someone gave me some wonderful advice the other day: Just put yourself into situations where you can shine.
Their advice was not what helped me the most, but rather their sheer enthusiasm about life and how much it had to offer. Instead of feeling overwhelmed or confused, they were excited by the numerous possibilities.
When studying, we’re often told to revise the things that we’ve learnt. I often find that I forget things that I’ve learnt soon after I’ve learnt it. These things not only consist of stuff from textbooks but also from mistakes and life in general.
I remember waiting in a book shop in the middle of the night for my train at Victoria, London that had been delayed by snow, to arrive. I picked up a book called rules of life. It had simple rules accompanied by some text about how to succeed in life. I found it corny and obvious yet shocking. It was shocking because all of the rules were things that I knew but often sunk into some dusty corner of my brain under an accumulated pile of random insights.
I have thus decided to try to record all my own little lessons from life so that I can constantly revise and not be caught in a cycle of repeating mistakes.
I have the photograph of us going to the theatre hand-in-hand stuck on the wall next to my bed. Since we were both always excited about dress-up parties and dressing up in general, I suggested that we should have dress-up dates. In the photograph you’re wearing a maroon and brown argyle turtle-neck that isn’t particularly flattering. I remember I giggled a bit when I first saw you that night. It was slightly rough to nestle my face into and smelt like old leather and cigarettes. You carried my brown leather bag that resembled the suitcase of a travelling salesman and wore a golfer hat, your hair carefully hiding the clashing graffiti font of the brand.
I was wearing big rhinestone grandma glasses that hipsters sometimes wear nowadays to prove that their good looks are unaffected even by the ugliest accessories. I certainly was affected. I wore a satin black blouse with a pussy-bow adorning a frilly peter pan collar and a beige skirt under a soft cream cardigan. I had suggested dressing up as an elderly couple as I saw going to the theatre together as an old people thing.
As I’m sitting in bed writing this now, I’m getting pins and needles in my right leg. I’m afraid to move it though, because you’re hugging it against your warm chest that rises and falls to the rhythm of your deep breaths. I don’t want to wake you. Your body twitches occasionally so you must be having one of those adventure/action dreams.
I’d like to think that this photograph foreshadows our future together and that when we’re old, our hands softened into wrinkles etched into papery skin, I’ll get a tingle of deja vu when we go to the theatre with you in your turtle-neck and me in my cardigan.