Any time you find yourself on the outside of the inside job that is society’s narrative, you are bound to want to kick people off your porch and end up ruining the Thanksgiving brussel sprouts by talking to your brother-in-law about Greco-Roman civilization when he should be watching his vegetables.
The day before Thanksgiving a woman I know stopped by unannounced at 7 am to drop something off. I was in my fuzzy pink robe, black glasses and I still had yesterday’s eye makeup on. My two little girls ran up to the front door when they heard the doorbell ring. She asked what we were planning to do for Thanksgiving. The girls in unison said they’d be with their dad at his house. She looked at us, cocked her head, pursed her lips, knit her brows in sympathy and said “I’m sorry” as if we had shared our beloved pet or grandmother had died.
I am pretty quick with replies of any nature. And I wanted to give her a version of what I tell Jehovah’s Witnesses when they step on my porch (“Get off my property. Now.”) and tell her to get off my porch with her stupid fucking narrative.
Sorry? For what? They love their dad, so being with him is a good thing. Thanksgiving doesn’t mean anything to me past “where is the finest food being served?” or do I feel like us missing every other Thanksgiving together is something anyone should pity us for. I am certainly not brainwashing or raising my kids to believe something is wrong or missing in their narrative.
I walked away, and let her talk to the kids for a minute while I started my coffee and cooled my jets. I thought of how when I read Taleb’s Black Swan and he used the word narrativity, it made me think of the word nativity and then I pictured a bunch of books sitting around the Bible in Bethlehem. Or maybe stupid Hallmark cards that continue common social narratives (happy lies like Thanksgiving, perfect families) sitting around the Bible.
Satisfied and comforted by my imagination, the fact that a week later I’d be sitting in the Philadelphia Free Library listening to Taleb speak and hear him with my own ears, and the coffee I’d drink in a few minutes, I said good-bye and of course… Happy Thanksgiving. I closed the door on the fake-compassion-pity-party-disguising-real-passive-aggression.
Just a few days before this I was also affronted by another whole family narrative. My ex pointed at our crying four-year old and said “Look what your freedom cost!” My reply was “Yeah, I’m not spending the rest of my life with you so that she doesn’t cry (she is four, they all cry) any more than I will tell her who to love or live with when she is an adult.”
Humans are so willing to sell their dignity, sexuality, happiness, INTELLIGENCE, maybe all of their soul for a line (a crock of shit), a story, a narrative they didn’t even make up.
This leads us to the story of Pompeii, my brother-in-law and the brussel sprouts.
My kids went to their dad’s and I got in a car and drove to the Hudson Valley to eat expensive, high-quality fare and enjoy the company of adults and not once have to tell my kids to knock it off.
A long time ago, my brother-in-law and I were talking about the history of the world and we got to the Greco-Roman part in the human timeline. He started telling me about the openness, the eroticism, and the unrepressed sexuality that existed then. I vaguely knew about the beautiful dirty frescos but I had no idea that humans at that time were not only openly ok with all forms of sexuality, but that it didn’t ruin a family or a career. Sexuality wasn’t deviant, it was celebrated. I stopped him. I think I said “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! Wait a second! Are you shittin’ me or what? Of course a goddamn volcano covered THAT up. How was this not a verse in Alanis Morissette’s song Ironic?”
Brown Paper Wrapped Goodness
And since that conversation I have (on and off) been really interested in all things Pompeii. I had just ordered a book called Roman Sex that came mailed to me, wrapped in brown paper to conceal its naughtiness. I was telling my brother-in-law about the book and then the brussel sprouts over cooked. I felt badly, since ironically that is both his and my favorite vegetable.
I followed him into the kitchen and started in on how I wasn’t accepting society AS-IS anymore and that I suspected that we all are so deeply, foolishly enslaved in our puritanically perverse (and boring) narrative that once again I could say we (human Americans) are like willing Jaycee Dugards. Some of us are so willing to settle for never FEELING anything just as long as we can sit inside the uncomfortable comfort of a poorly written script. Go to school, get married, buy a house, celebrate holidays, watch TV – never stop and think long enough to question any of it.
I told him my thoughts about how I think we are living in a Dark Age. How perhaps, my biggest question of all is “Where is the ART?” We got into a discussion then on how EVERYTHING has its value in its commercial value, not in forming opinions or beliefs or a real feeling. I asked if there were patrons to the arts anymore and he told me that there too it is based on sellability, not a belief in supporting expression, creation.
Always talking too much turkey
After a fine dinner – sans brussel sprouts – we continued this sad, impassioned conversation. He suggested I read Baudrillard and lent me two of his books. He told me I’d find answers there to my questions about art and all the fakeness I see, all the simulation. My brother-in-law is an artist and told me that all these questions I bring up are much worse in their effect on artists. I agreed, saying I could see that. I could see the suffering from repression, I see the submission to simulation over the real fucking thing and I certainly have seen the ugly brute force of commercialism in the very few talented artists I had ever met.
We left the Hudson Valley with my mind whirling, maybe a bit scared to read these new books. Living outside the safety of society’s narrative, I find some comfort in day long conversations like that one, but sadly, I mostly find myself alone in a bed with books, ideas and wild dreams that maybe make up for my own daydreamer’s narrative, one I have to struggle to write.
The irony in me being the one alone, outside the box, is that I am simply standing up for the human heart and its right to expression and love. To really love. But like the beauty that was hidden under a volcano’s ashes, I am left buried under the weight of society’s story, a story I refuse to stand by.
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