The Young-Girl wasn’t always this way. She’s the Fangirl led astray, once actively in love with the world because not honoring its every positive contribution to her life would put her at risk for extreme feelings of isolation. Wanting things to go well so badly that she’ll settle for the connection afforded by silently noted aesthetic appreciation, and keep the possibility of disappointment at bay. Eventually a little drunk with the superpower of recording her own version of life, the way it makes her the reliable narrator, the immortality it promises to every fleeting moment. Simon Critchley wrote in his book on David Bowie, “If Bowie’s music begins from loneliness, it is not at all an affirmation of solitude. It is a desperate attempt to overcome solitude and find some kind of connection.” Bowie himself: “Who will connect me with love?” “Who will love Aladdin Sane?” And, defeated: “All I have is my love of love.”
But the Fangirl doesn’t mind her love of love. Maybe it’s what makes her special. Maybe she’s crazy about her ability to feel crazy about [person, place, thing]. When life gave me these moments of grace, I was no longer an anomaly at school, nor a puzzling figure to the adults in fashion and publishing: I was connected. Making sense of these punctums in lists and graphic organizers; sketching features of my classmates I was too shy to point out in person. But what gifts they gave me without even knowing! Freud wrote that, in love and attraction, “The finding of an object is in fact a refinding of it.” So somewhere deep inside me, the seeds had already been planted—by movies, books, songs—and it took just one pleasing detail for my internal world to flower. It became OK that I didn’t pursue a “normal,” collegiate path, because 10 years prior, Man carried his books through the snow at an Ivy League. Even his throwaway stories about school could turn my chest cavity into a diorama of aesthetic fantasies fulfilled: The purity symbolized in the church-like campus, the bunk bed intimacy of communal living, the ancient library granting legitimacy that being a self-made “wunderkind” could not. By some miracle of transference, Man had gone to college for me, studied and wandered and tried drugs for the first time with kids his own age, framed his dorm room with a string of Christmas lights, probably, because that’s what I would’ve done. Now I have to return the past lives I inherited when Man’s Friend showed me all their old photos. The boxes this enabled me to silently check; the mortal limits of my career choice exceeded, briefly, by proxy.
I’m not the only one who’s often lived to serve these fantasies and obligations which maybe were not my own to begin with. Joan Didion once said, of her upbringing, “I tended to perceive the world in terms of things read about it. I [had] a literary idea of experience, and I still don’t know where all the lies are.” When I interviewed Taylor Swift for ELLE: “I’d never been in a relationship when I wrote my first couple of albums, so these were all projections of what I thought love might be like, based on movies and books and songs and literature.” I also don’t want to be in the business of telling younger nerdy me that her feelings weren’t real, her visions all lies, her observations mere simulacra. But maybe they were something other than love. Love is supposed to move both ways.
From Joni Mitchell’s “Amelia”:
Maybe I’ve never really loved
I guess that is the truth
I’ve spent my whole life in clouds at icy altitudes
And looking down on everything
I crashed into his arms
Amelia, it was just a false alarm.
A moment of dissociation in James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room: “From a great height, where the air all around me was colder than ice, I watched my body in a stranger’s arms.”
And the angel in Wings of Desire, high up on Berlin’s Victory Column, prepared to sacrifice his immortality for the chance to live among the people he’s only ever observed. Hoping, desperately, to fall in love with one of them.
“I don’t want to always hover above. I’d rather feel a weight within casting off this boundless freedom and tying me to the earth. At every step, every gust of wind, I’d like to be able to say, ‘Now…’ and ‘now’ and ‘now.’ No longer ‘forever’ and ‘eternity.’”
I’ll call this a diary, but of course I know you’re there. I don’t know if I ever intended to keep any of this to myself. ♦