I’ve been having trouble waking up in the morning for a little while. All is change, nothing stays the same way forever, but I thought I had put myself into a little groove where I was out for a late night tea then up again early in the morning. That doesn’t seem to be sticking.
I had some disturbing dreams. In one, I was driving by a field where a disturbed person that was shooting people and cars with rifles. In the dream-logic, I needed to get out of the car so that I didn’t crash. This led to a very disturbing foot chase, then finally a hand to hand confrontation, where I had to stab him in the hands repeatedly with some old school teacher’s scissors, like these:
[I forgot that I was writing about yesterday, these are last night’s dreams. They were disturbing]
The dream transitioned into a social function that I was throwing for friends, family, and former teachers. We were all at my house, but a squalid, transformed, dirty version of my house. It looked like nobody had cleaned, and my guests were uncomfortable in it. I was so sad that all these people showed up in order to be happy for me, and couldn’t. That was what I woke up to this morning.
Back to yesterday.
I made it out of the house fine, and spent the morning working quietly. We had some people interviewing during kid hours, and I had to teach some first graders how to play BINGO (I forget that they don’t know anything sometimes), and that’s the closest I had to anything interesting during the day.
When I got home, I watched the latest episode of Mad Men with Luke Skywalker. It was incredible, and reminded me of why I like the show so much. That led into a conversation that, while it wasn’t antagonistic, still had a lot of weird energy to it.
One of the reasons why I like Luke so much is that she is ferociously, crazily smart, and also notices and remembers everything. Everything. This makes her an interesting conversation partner, and frequent generator of insights I wouldn’t have seen, but also makes me nervous any time I am worried that I am going to step into her death ray.
Over the last month, I’ve had a lot of internal drama about whether I am somebody that’s too hard on others. I’ve yo-yo’d pretty wildly between feeling completely unable to figure out a way to express myself in one situation to being instantly at home and nurtured in others. By happenstance (rando Facebook click, if you must know), I made my way to the corpus of Ask Polly columns in The Awl and New York Magazine. One that meant a lot to me was the letter, “Why are the guys I date so boring?” Here’s the part I can’t stop thinking about:
After digging out my journal from my first year out of college for a column a few weeks ago, I’ve been rereading it here and there, and boy, have I learned a lot about my depressing life back then. I lived with my college boyfriend and spent all of my time with his friends, and let me tell you what, those people were perfectly smart and interesting, but they were not my people. Every single page of that journal is a testament to how out of place I was. I was a radish tossed into a sack of potatoes, trying hard to imitate a potato. “Why do these potatoes act like my bitterness and zing are a pain in the ass?” I’d wonder. “Who doesn’t love the almost-too-sharp taste of a Raphanus sativus? Am I going crazy? Why do they turn their eyes away from my bright-red color, and flinch like I’m not nearly potato-y enough? Why do they roll their eyes and look at each other whenever I get a little radishy?”
Now to be fair, in some ways, I saw potatoes as the rulers of the universe back then. They could just power-down their wild brains and focus on the concrete. They kept things simple. I thought maybe they were stupid or shallow at times, but really they were making a choice, the choice of reasonably happy people with reasonably happy, privileged childhoods who were destined to lead reasonably happy lives — lives that had very little in common with the life I wanted to live. They would simply amble optimistically forward with their careers and continue to do their low-key, easygoing, Grateful Dead–loving, Teva-wearing upper-middle-class professional dude and dudette thing.
And frankly, I myself was a little allergic to radishes! I was a radish with a radish allergy! Radishes were much harder to get along with than potatoes. Even though radishes said “Yes, yes!” when I talked instead of averting their eyes at my non-potato-y ways, they also had so many radishy words coming out of their mouths that they weren’t very good listeners. And they were so oversensitive! It was so easy to piss them off, and they’d TELL you when they got pissed, unlike the potatoes! Radishes wore their hearts on their sleeves, like I did when I was feeling weak, so as a result, they seemed weak to me. I thought I was better than them! I thought it was cooler not to be myself!
But mark my words: A radish cannot pretend among the potatoes forever. As a wise man once said, a radish who chases potatoes around and moves in with potatoes is an unhappy radish.
Learn to get along with men who are very smart and weird and sensitive like you are. And if you’re not already friends with radishy women, you’d better find some of them, too. Maybe do that first. Because what the fuck are you doing with all of these spuds? Why don’t you have a radish friend to tell you, “Dude, he’s a potato. What did you expect?”
It’s true that radishes can be inconvenient, with their complicated feelings and demands. Especially when you’re young. Young radishes are, nine times out of ten, super-taxing and dysfunctional. They see complications everywhere. They will get weird or talk too long about their artistic pursuits or disappear suddenly or advocate for open relationships (which is great if you also love open relationships, but personally, I prefer comfort and predictability over almost everything).
But when a radish meets another radish and they see each other clearly and support and love each other for their sharpness and their bitterness and their incomparable zing (yes, I am beating this metaphor into the ground. That’s what we radishes do!), it’s a beautiful thing. The very best of everything springs forth from that kind of primordial, aching radishy love.
Now, for a person like me, having binary categories like “radish” and “potato” and seeing people the world through that lens can be a huge emotional trap. When I read that column, I immediately thought of the radishes and potatoes in my own life. Just as quickly, I also thought of the times in my life where I had such a narrow idea of what a radish was that I thought everyone else was a potato.
The column feels empowering to me, too. One of the wonderful things my former therapist would hit me over the head with is that, in terms of human development, I’m cruising right into “decide what kind of person you want to be” territory. I really like it. One of my obsessions is the Almodovar movie Todo Sobre mi Madre, which has this monologue from the transsexual (her term) prostitute La Agrado:
They call me La Agrado because I’ve always tried to make people’s lives agreeable. As well as being agreeable, I’m very authentic! Look at this body! All made to measure! … [I]t costs a lot to be authentic, ma’am. And one can’t be stingy with these things…because you are more authentic the more you resemble what you’ve dreamed you are.
I love that: “you are more authentic the more you resemble what you’ve dreamed you are.” It gives me hope that one day I will feel pride in my sharp edges and snaggleteeth, and will one day be able to really believe fuck ’em if they don’t like it. Because what do I want to be? A radish. And wanting is the first step to being.
All of this is to say that Luke is a radish too, and I can take a little zing.
To end the day, I went to play music with Jesus Christ for what might have been the last time. I have nothing but sadness about that.