Wednesday, September 16, 2020


The first slight chill of September is a grim reminder of not just time but his designated reaper.  This summer's diminished celebrations have highlighted the significance of our mortality... of the way things wind down, segue casually into a sequence... or, more rarely-- simply die.  That 2020 may be remembered as the year with no summer, for some of us, is for our future perfect to determine.  

Death after death has been logged, like a thick-knotted rope we blindly grope in an unfamiliar, unlit present.  We are sad-- we are repressed, we are uncharacteristically grateful for small privileges as they are gradually restored... but like a hurricane aftermath, we have not yet surveyed the damaged human landscape.  

Meanwhile we have the fires burning in the West, reminding us that nature is not done with us-- that vaccine or none, there are larger battles in store-- there is perhaps life on Venus, economic disaster for any one of a number of countries... there is still a looming and impressive death toll to digest.  No wonder people demonstrate; fear fuels anger... we are leaderless, disunited, confused and betrayed.  We are the victims of emotional recession.

Tonight I re-watched The Virgin Suicides.  With the added distance of age (the parental Lisbons are a generation younger than I am now), it all seemed both more and less poignant.  The concept of innocence-- especially for those of us who were born in the 50's-- is complex and rooted.  Whether we were raised in a protective, sheltered home or somehow damaged and violated, all women seem to have a mothery response to teenage girls.  As some of us know, they can also be evil and manipulative-- but even in the darkest Lolitas, there remains a 'band' of white.  They get a reduced sentence.  

One of the noted ironies of this film tonight was the quarantine-- which unlike our pandemic culture only served to encourage the so-called malignancy it was meant to prevent.  Teenage suicide is especially tragic because real-life seems so vast and irrelevant outside the small passionate priorities of youth.  I remember my older sister once swallowed a bottle of aspirin because she was docked from some unremarkable party.  At the hospital she confessed she'd only actually eaten seven and they were baby aspirin because she was more terrified of the stomach-pumping apparatus.  In the end it was a worthless exercise and she'd played the death card badly.

The other theme that struck me was the longing-- that hypnotic, all-consuming 'drug' we really only experience from the entry points of love-- the fantastic, elaborate, drawn out sense of endless waiting to consummate or even touch the object of our desire (which can change in a teenage heartbeat).  Halfway through the film, at the bottom of the screen a message floated by informing me, among other bits of news, that Cardi B had filed for divorce citing 'trust issues'. Well... times have certainly changed from nights of holding a telephone receiver over a turntable playing early Todd Rundgren to the instantaneous and public posts of social media.  In the current MO of relationships, those weighted endless hours of courtship have eloped; time snaps back like an elastic weapon in your face.  

I don't know what teenagers hold onto these days... romance has had its wings clipped-- or maybe the quarantine, like the Lisbon sisters, has only stirred the fires of love and creativity.  I have heard all too many stories of death these months-- painful for those of us who stand helplessly on these quiet sidelines, but also somehow comprehensible in this world of 'less-than'.  I look back on my girlhood; as a high school senior I had a brief romance with a handsome young teacher who was installed as a 'draft dodger' .  He let it be known he was interested and as inappropriate and taboo as it was, it superseded any romantic fantasies of my 17th year.  I was fortunate; he treated me with utmost respect and kindness.  We drove off in his Renault to a studio apartment on West End Avenue where he taught me things I had not known, but never violated my 'innocence'.  It was 'everything'.  He even introduced me to Dustin Hoffman.  

My high school romance became a lifelong friendship... we went our separate appropriate ways and I always considered this experience more than first love... During the pandemic I learned he'd passed away, and with it a small chunk of my past buried itself.  For those of us who do not attend funerals or post on social media or weep publicly, these things have taken a toll.  For teenagers, reading about death statistics daily, masking their young mouths and maintaining an amount of sterility-- well, it seems like some kind of deprivation--  the year with no 'teenage'.  It seemed fitting tonight that The Virgin Suicides paid a kind of tribute to the pain and loss suffered by even the 'privileged perfect'.  I remember the criticisms that it 'rhapsodized' suicide... for me it just reminded of the perfect fragility of adolescence... the sad wasted timeline of disappointment and cancellation-- the ambiguous and ambivalent value of quarantine.  But I am old and nostalgic-- empathic and sad.

On the other hand, apparently Cardi B. has just filed for custody of Kulture.  Let's hope not.  

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home