The biggest red flag of them all
Sunday. 2.9.14 12:00 am
In one of my top five favorite books of all time--The Unbearable Lightness of Being--Kundera presents his reader base with two characters who find themselves taken by one another--as often characters in books are. What sets his description apart from others is his attraction to the idea of coincidence, and the idea that we only see coincidence as something more like fate--as something generally more profound--when...essentially, we want it to be more profound. Suddenly, a song isn't just a song, but the soundtrack to the first time you've met someone significant. Anyone else and it remains insignificant in meaning; we give it meaning only when it suddenly has meaning to us.
This is a concept I've carried with myself since reading this book at age seventeen.
I'm sitting in the library, feeling annoyed and tense to a high degree. R is next to me, and he's already confessed that he'd like to pick back up where we left off--basically, that he'd like to keep dating, like those two months we didn't talk never happened. In response, I've told him that this isn't going to happen, but that friendship is still on the table.
He says he's fine with this, but I don't think I'll be hearing from him much. His intentions, as he tells me, are clear.
(Ew. What the hell. Nevermind about the friendship.)
He proceeds to tell me that I came into his life out of nowhere, and runs with that for a few minutes, and that's when I absolutely know: He's given me a degree of significance that I haven't given him. This should have been obvious, right away: his conversation topics would, every once in a while, veer into what I was wearing, the night we met, or how weird it is that we share this or that in common...
Do I remember what he was wearing, the night we met? Man, not really. And I was the one who complimented his outfit! But to me, it just didn't stick; I lost interest in him, romantically, and those specific and "fate-filled" memories dropped off from my memory bank. Meanwhile, he essentially thinks of me as something sent down-stream to him in a bulrush basket.
Dating is wildly uncomfortable. Man, it is so uncomfortable. Everything about the conversation we had was uncomfortable in a way that made me very tense and defensive. I absolutely cannot stand when people just can't see me. He wasn't hearing what I was saying, or picking up on my cues--he was under this assumption that I'm vulnerable and small and needing of love and closeness...and while, sure, that's true in some circumstances (when I'm with a very select number of people with whom I feel safe), generally?
Generally, you don't see that side of me. Especially not after just three dates, come on.
(He assumed I was too ladylike and polite to curse, and, from then on, it made me feel too uncomfortable to curse around him, and I CURSE A LOT, so I just felt wildly uncomfortable on our dates, from that point on, and the thought of going back to that just does not attract me at all because shit.)
Do not attach significance to strangers!
actual interesting classes
Wednesday. 2.5.14 7:45 pm
So I'm taking a history class, and it's the first history class I've taken where I'm not so much "History class..." as I am, "~*~*~*~HISTORY CLASS!!~*~*~*~"
It's on monsters in pre-modern history and it's SO...WOW. We've been going through different stories about monsters, such as Gilgamesh, serpents and dragons, mythical hybrid creatures in Chinese culture, and, most recently, Polyphemus from The Odyssey. So, one day, we're talking about Polyphemus the clyclops whose home Ulysses basically breaks into. He kills the guy's sheep, eats his cheese...just kind of generally douches around. I raise my hand because my parallel senses are tingling.
So I say, "I feel like a common thread with everything we read is that some guy comes bumbling into the monster's territory, imposes on the monster, threatens it, and is then surprised when the monster feels the need to attack. And then the human kills or disables the monster and leaves again with some sense of victory and glory."
And she thinks this is an interesting talking point to lead from, so she asks why we think that is.
"Propaganda," says Adam, who sits a couple rows behind me (I'm trying to learn all ~40 names). He's right, but then she asks about the Chinese literature we read where they essentially revere monsters and treat them very respectfully, and that's an excellent point, but I like the answer of propaganda so much that I can't get off of that mental path.
--And suddenly, there it is. See, I've been studying the colonial period in Latin American countries in three of my classes--Latin American and Carribbean Studies has been focusing on Brazil, lately, Mexican Culture has been focusing on Mexico, and then Service Learning has been focusing on generalized oppression and prejudice--and that includes the study of slavery, so it's on my mind already. The question is obvious, when your mind is already kind of there.
Did China ever keep slaves?
Turns out, they did. During the Qing Dynasty, they held what would be considered to be slaves, but the Chinese treated their slaves much differently than slaves were treated in, say, the Americas. They dined together and formed legitimate and respectful relationships (which doesn't excuse the slavery--I'm getting to a point, with this). They refer to the Qing Dynasty's treatment of enslaved individuals as more of a codependent relationship; it did become more brutal as we came from the pre-modern era to the modern era, although in a different manner and for different reasons than the Americas.
Now, I'm not calling slaves monstruous. I think that should be obvious, but I'm going to clarify, just in case. I'm implying that mythology about monsters was used as propaganda towards imperialism and the idea of a "superior race."
This Chinese example reveals a very obvious pattern in the morality of different cultures and the treatment of individuals that they see as "lesser," especially groups of individuals who are depicted by many imperialist nations as "hostile" natives. The morals expressed in tales about monsters, from what I've seen so far, are directly parallel to how they viewed indigenous and enslaved individuals.
a small anecdote that fits into a larger pattern
Monday. 2.3.14 3:51 pm
So there's this adorable person who sits in front of me in one class.
I don't think many people are adorable in a serious sort of manner that implies attraction, but here he is, and there I am, swooning for some unknown reason.
Immediately upon noticing him for the first time, I had one thought, and today I confirmed that my thought was, indeed, correct:
I have a problem.
Wednesday. 1.29.14 9:02 pm
"Do you remember back in freshman year, when it was supposed to snow but ended up just pouring freezing rain...?"
"I wasn't here--I was up at [my first university], until the next fall, but I was dating someone down here, and he was so mad at me for getting snow days and snow."
I'm sitting in the only open school building with a latte from the only open coffee shop and a friend I care about. We talk, and watch people outside take photos of icicles--I count them to him as they come and go. It's a Wednesday, but we don't have class because it snowed, last night, for the first time in eight years, in our town.
The theme of the day is Now and Then. Our conversation starts with a very obvious display of my total and complete distrust, which was built over years of being blindsighted with in-person meetings such as this one. It progresses when I realize that, this time, he isn't here to spring anything on me. We're drinking coffee and talking.
I am immensely relieved, but try not to show it.
He talks about habits built up throughout college, and how it's time to start taking responsibility for how unhealthy habits affect him, and I'm grinning so hard that I want to throw myself out the window beside me. The fact that he's even thinking about how he's been and how he wants to be is incredible. I'm proud. I'm beaming.
...And I'm nervous. Something about casually sitting down with him in a public place with no reassuring cuddling makes me so nervous that I blush out of nowhere and trip over my words. It's embarrassing. I'm the master of composed, and here's this perfect person, who cha-chas into my life and makes me mispronounce one-syllable words.
In a lot of ways--like this one--I almost give preference to when we were eighteen, and the world was simple, and eating right beside him was easy and not terrifying, even though that came with me liking him romantically (which, even with reciprocation, was complex enough that I am now deeply glad to be platonic). These days, we're so much more complicated and weird; I can fool myself all I want by being comfortable with him when we're watching movies or playing video games, but hell if I can't get myself together for half an hour when it's two in the afternoon and neither of us is wearing pajamas.
Every once in a blue moon, I think back to that dumb eighteen-year old girl, sitting in her papasan chair, laptop in tow, texting the boy she likes about snow...and am a little envious of how easy she has it. Meanwhile, in the present day, I sit across from the grown version of that boy and wonder if he's considered, lately, how strange our friendship has become.
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