Note to self
Watched ‘Frances Ha’ last night. Whatever. I was just feeling awful and lonely and needed something lighthearted that would validate my shitty feelings. And I’ve got out of the habit of watching films regularly so I figured I barely know what’s good anymore. Supposedly this was a film about “female friendship.” Ok then. I should have known not to watch a film by Noah Baumbach. But I liked Greta Gerwig’s physiognomy in the Whit Stillman film she did a few years ago, and I like female friendship, so I gave it a go.
Anyway, the film was not good. Its portrayal of relationships lacked intimacy in the most peculiar way; it was the emphasised attempt to represent a certain kind of intimacy in the main character’s relationships that felt awkward, forced. The visit to her parental home, for example, a montage of 10 second or so clips of her laughing with nieces or nephews, reminiscing excitedly with her aunt over some old photos, dopily partaking in a family singalong, and so on. Similarly, her relations with her best friend hinged on these kind of banal exchanges. Of course, we all have these kind of relationships, and intimacy is shared simply when you sit by someone in silence. But this kind of closeness can be shared with someone in a lecture theatre, or on a bus. The loose narrative of the film follows Frances growing apart from Sophie. Both are 27; Frances, a failing ‘apprentice’ dancer, and Sophie, who works at a publisher until she follows her high flying banker boyfriend to Tokyo. There’s a slight twist at the end, where Frances succeeds in her dancing ambitions and Sophie comes back heartbroken, but that wasn’t interesting. I think the film makes an attempt to figure what we ask for in relationships, and what we can share. There are wild, fantastical and simply odd illustrations of friendship, particularly Frances’ relationships with her housemates, who come in and jump on her bed in the morning, share details of their sexual exploits, and so on (actually, it’s a bit like a hipster New Girl). But really, I think intimacy is full of tension. The film offers glimpses of this sometimes; the look on Gerwig’s face when she realises she’s implicitly being dropped from the company; equally, the look on her boss’s face when she breaks the news; the phone call from Sophie when she’s in Paris, that particular nonchalant cover-up of pain at not being able to disclose recent, even mildly painful or joyful experiences to someone you’ve become distrustful of. Etc. It reminded me for example of a time I sat in my bed crying over a boy about 4 years ago. I was sleeping with a poet (of course), who had suddenly stopped replying to my messages after he’d moved to Brighton. My phone rang and it was my ex-boyfriend of two years, who I hadn’t talked to for months. I picked up and tried on the most normal voice. He repeatedly asked if I was ok, but I carried on as if everything was normal, yes things were fine and yes I was happy. I couldn’t bear to admit how alone and upset I’d been for the last few weeks, and felt no longer able to share it with him anyhow. But it surprised me, how easy it is to glide into conversation when you know someone so well, and equally the ease of elision when you’re on your guard with people you don’t know to trust. But loss of intimacy always hurts; having to elide painful details of your experience and to revert to a “three hour brunch” (to quote the film) kind of friendship. The reason I’ve diverged from my recount of the film to excavate a banal memory is that I feel this is as far as the film could go for me. It has that mimetic quality which frames experiences just like you’ve had them; that condescending smile you get when you’re not ‘sacked’ but ‘no longer needed’. The so-called universal experience of being a woman in her early twenties. You have to be from a Western background, middle-class, white, of course.
Anyway the reason I’m working out what I thought was wrong with the film as I type, is that I might forget, and these (half-baked, midnight hour) thoughts seem to highlight a tendency in the kind of films and TV programmes currently being produced that aim to encapsulate the experience of the aforementioned subject. I wouldn’t give a shit, tbh, but I’m curious because critics spew torrents of praise on these kinds of ‘realistic’ portrayals of young women’s experience, and with it comes all this kind of implicit social and cultural critique. Girls, for example. But I would include Blue is the Warmest Colour in this category as well. I could write a whole essay on that film, but that’s for another day.
Of course, Girls has come under heavy criticism for its racial representation, its class representation. And that’s shit too, but as a non-white woman, I’ve already developed a problematic relationship to race as it’s portrayed on TV; I grew up watching and reading tacit racism as entertainment, and thus don’t need no Girls, not least white columnist girls, to tell me that this one program written by some douche hipster is gonna be fucking racist. The problem I have with it is in its particularity. Sure, it’s a caricature of the worst people you knew at school, the most highly pretentious, ‘eccentric’, ambitious, spoilt, highly strung, spaced out. Very cool and funny. But because you have an ‘angle’ on something, or can perform self-critique (lucky you), doesn’t distance you from it. The relationships and *exchanges* it typifies can still be problematic in their representation. Similarly with Frances Ha. Anyway I’m getting bored of typing now and I’m losing the thread anyway. I need to go to bed. But basically, these kinds of humiliation: offering to buy a meal for a friend and the cashier rejecting your card, submitting to dissatisfying sex with your vanilla boyfriend who comes too quickly, being laid off work, working in a ‘degrading’ job - these experiences do not encapsulate being young and identifying as a woman. Quick note that I dislike the use of ‘degrading’ when it comes to describing work, but only use it here because when the women in these programmes/films are doing such work, it is always portrayed as if they see it as *personally* degrading - it reduces them to someone else’s level. All work is degrading, particularly the kind of boho writerly/artistic/creative work that these fictionalised subjects always seem to aspire to.
What struck a chord really was Frances’ trip back home, only portrayed, as mentioned, in fleeting detail. What is it with sassy white girls and their weirdly doting parents. I don’t believe anyone has familial relationships quite like it, however ‘lucky’ you might be. Families as they’re presently constituted can trap the smallest cruelties, the most horrendous abuses, and perpetuate that particular, tender pain through generations of coldness, aggression and misery. Any familial tension in these programmes is easily glossed over - the young woman is portrayed as so silly and narcissistic - see the end of last season Girls (god why do I know this) where Hannah’s Grandma nearly dies or something. But there’s a social/cultural aspect to this dimension of experience - I mean a lot of these films/programmes try to depict the actual situation of trying to find and sustain work, for example, which can be excruciating and the source of lots of emotional pain - but they merely depict the content, the (sometimes humorous) humiliating process itself. It lacks sensitivity to the complexities of the kinds of institutions a person interacts with, *must* interact with; familial, work, welfare, educational etc. that circumscribe and dictate and make demands on the nature of subjectivity you’re able to form. The type of relationships that this person pursues, becomes entangled in, sustains, enjoys, must have at all costs, tend to mirror these kind of circumscriptions. Intimacies (intimate friendships, sexual relationships, and so on) therefore participate in their own elision and tension, because any intimate relationship, as I see it at least, is already working against its own demands - to have a relationship with someone else is to accept, submit to, their particularity through and within these limits.
Well I typed that all across an hour and a half span so excuse me and the typos and general blathering, anonymous internet. Anyway, that ends a little bit of late night narcissism which is probably only intelligible to myself. Just a note that some other stuff I wanted to write on was racism in schools/universities, Blue Warmest, and maybe also that film I saw a couple of years ago, Pictures from a Life, relationship of its formal qualities to recounts from protagonist’s sexual partners.
Becoming impervious to pain
I’m beginning to control my movement through breath a little better. I noticed it tonight (14/4). Occasionally I’ll lose it but it’s getting there. The problem is often a too quick exhale followed by an accidental retention before I move into the next asana. It’s easy for me to become anxious and breathless. Anyway, it’s becoming better, is all. Once I get into the rhythm of it the breath naturally aligns itself with movement in vinyasa. That’s all.
I feel crumbly
Imagine going to a seminar or colloquium or conference in which the questions discussed had some kind of direct relevance or currency in your own life, and put into reflection your relationships with others, and the possibility for destruction in the work that you do.
So sick of feeling an obligation to go to shitty seminars where I feel too awkward to talk to anyone, head of dept and other profs’ passive-aggressive relationships with their students, the cackling sea of white hipster dudes with their stupid backpacks and glasses, the fact that people you’ve met a dozen times will recognise you but purposely ignore your presence, grim self importance, and so on and so on.
I hate my PhD
"Those things once clung to us like our skin, and this is how our property still clings to us today. Nothing of these contains us, and the photograph gathers fragments around a nothing."
If you’re lucky enough not to use the tube in London, you’re lucky. I spend a large portion of my wages on getting into work. Men are happy enough to physically push my body out the way to get on the first tube. Teachers swing children by their wrists. I must get out of my job.
I read the beginning of Glissant’s ‘Poetics of Relation’ on Friday, on a big, soft chair in SHL. Bodies on ships. All week the image of kalapani prison in my head. Fell asleep and went home.
Last night I dreamt that I saw **. He told me why he didn’t like me; he does, as far as I know, like me, in waking life. He rated me 3/10. Many things; my nose, my sense of humour, were unendurable to him.
March 11, 2013
Time is 16.22. Facebook reminded me that it’s an ex-boyfriend’s birthday. It occurred to me in the couple of years following the end of our relationship the date would only have been that, for me. And as months turned into years the possibility of any kind of distant intimacy diminishes until the date is unrecognizable to me, a marker of homogeneous time. And time becomes more homogeneous without love.
What I really came on here to record, the important thing, is that I’ve spent all day wanting a nap. I wouldn’t say that I’m tired. Some sort of mute sinking feeling has crept into every joint and corner of my body to the point where all the reading I’ve been attempting to do has been contending (or at least complicit) with this feeling of wanting to lie down. I wonder what it is. cold weather in London again. starting the day with Schumann. It’s less the everyday melancholy, more the flatness of things around me, amorphous and dynamic as they are, overwhelmingly flooding its way into my work, my reading (my attempts to organise my reading) and concurrently the distractions I yield to when avoiding work, which has rendered this state of utter impasse. It’s not wholly unproductive, but it’s an impossible feeling to articulate, when in the midst of an obviously dynamic world, you’re suddenly flooded for hours with an overwhelming feeling of vagueness.
I’m sure this feebly, snow-flurry, windy day in the surburbs of London will disappear into the unending vagueness of my life, but I felt compelled to record it, for now, if only because I am avoiding doing more work. Which I really need to do, now.
20/10/12. not at the TUC march.
today’s date has a nice symmetry to it. I am reading David Dabydeen’s Our Lady of Demerara. slowly, and only on the bus or tube, because I have too much work to do otherwise. perhaps I will write something about it when I finish. I read his cousin Cyril Dabydeen’s account of growing up in colonial Guyana the other night. a natural-historical memoir if there ever was one: dizzying, wonderful, smells, heat, tension, oppression, and all the water; I’ll certainly have to write on it at some point. but for now I am drinking blackberry tea & trying to care about allegory in Benjamin’s Ursprung.
sacked from minimum wage pub job. hello blog.
everything is golden out the window. later I will make some chicken soup. I need to read Kant for tomorrow but I feel anxious about jobs and money and my mind won’t rest.