Funny/Sad You Should Ask
June 30, 2012 § 25 Comments
People who’ve read my books have asked me, why the split personality? Why the fun-loving persona and the sad sad novels, where the best characters are always slaughtered, women are constantly held under the cloddish foot of some dream-haunted oafish male, babies are never safe, love is just some cruel Lucy holding the football, and everything, including rainbows, ends in tears?
Every time I think about it, I have another answer. But this is the one that today sounds best to me.
Free will is a terrible lie perpetuated in that eponymous movie, Free Willy.
We are not that little boy with the power to unleash the Orca that is our birthshackle. It does not rise above our head and hurl itself into deep and endless water.
We were born already at the sad end of a happy story, where we could have been dogs but instead found ourselves tearing out of the placenta of some lower species.
Our personalities are already human. Shackle number one.
The DNA of our parents, and their parents, and theirs, and theirs: Shackle number two.
It explains on why on one otherwise joyous and free-spirited trip tubing down the San Marcos river, I noticed my adult sisters gorging on chocolate and snapped, “You’ll ruin your dinner.” It also explains why, gliding down the Manhattan streets with the sensuous gait of a runway model, I happened to look into the shiny side of a building and see, reflected, my father’s entitled lurch.
Where you were born, how you were raised. Both your gender and your generation. Your culture, your schooling, whether or not your mother once locked you in a closet with a terrible pantsuit from the 70’s hanging above your head as punishment (don’t deny it old lady), the books you read, things that happened to you, things that didn’t happen to you.
All affect what is called free will.
What’s even worse is the shorthand we have for each other. What we tend to do – what I tend to do – when confronted with the myriad inconsistencies which make up a person, is this:
We take that personality that still manages to be unique despite all the forces that conspire to shape it, and we name it one thing.
We say, that person is smart, that person is funny, that person is weird, that person is shy, that person is vain, boring, talented, crazy, black and white.
I hate having one brand. As a writer, an advertiser, an individual.
Trapped in that Sea Worldian tank and made to do, for the Judas sum of a herring, that single and defining trick over and over again.
I think it goes back to free will, this desperate need to be a moving target for anyone who would classify me.
Being myself, being yourself, is already rife with classification.
Being two things, or ten, or a billion, is the glory of being human, a species usually kind of hosed when it comes to glory. It is the uncapturable in you, that quality that does, in fact, allow you to be that shimmering Orca, still dripping with the chlorinated water of civilization, sailing above a boy’s head into the horizon of who you really are.
I know a woman named Janet whose poignant advertising work redefined how a generation of young girls feel about themselves and is hell on wheels at a party.
I know a man named Mark, who lost a brother to suicide, another brother to aids, almost died of it himself, was an addict, went to prison, and can channel it all into an brilliantly poignant film script or the quiet dedication, five years and counting, of picking up all the street litter in his neighborhood, or even the piece of comic art you see above.
My sister, The Rabbit, is not just a rabbit but a fawn and a wolf and a dove. My Saintly Mother is less than a saint and more than a mother. I could take any member of my family and write a comedy or a tragedy.
The man I once lived with was made up of everything I thought he was and everything I didn’t. I wanted him to be the character I drew but he held the eraser, and I can only look to back at the moment I last saw him with wonder and respect.
And Darcie is an ever-changing human dreamscape of what is too sad to speak of and too funny for words. That merry go round of burlesque show music, whispers of the damned, bottle rockets, shelter dogs, prayers that don’t come true. She’s my jewel. If I want a different color, I hold her to a lit window and turn her slowly.
It took me a long time to realize Darcie is everyone I know.
That’s what I love in my family and my friends. That eternal and defiant range of being. And when I find out something new about them, or something old that it is new to me, it’s like some shining penny I discover on a pile of old coins I thought I already counted.
And I reach for it, not for its earthly value, but its magical and glorious value to me.