introspective periscope : peeking inside since Y2K


baseball season to football season, abbreviated

sunsetting - 25 september 2017

"i don't love you anymore. i don't think i ever did. and if you ever had any love for me, you kept it all so well hid."~eurythmics

it has been well over a month since that last book club night.

this summer, i joined a ladies erotic classics book club with a girlfriend of mine. it was an ambitious list of books to take on in one summer considering some of the downright sexual violence it required one to consume every two weeks. the list had a very sketchy understanding of 'erotica', too. maybe it was the novelty of the way i understood the stories way back then--is this allowed? you mean they were writing this smutty stuff back then? of course they were writing it, dummy...for five dollars a page since the dawn of time! maybe it was that i had a lot to learn about myself and a ton of growing up to do to appreciate exactly how fucked up so many of those stories really are. this was a second or third or fourth reading for many on the list and this time around and i was floored, stunned. the way i felt about those books back then was probably about finding a sort of empowerment and figuring myself out sexually and which also informed the kinds of relationships i was willing to have back then to my utter disadvantage. when the sweetest love story i can think of (secretary, 2002) is the film adaptation of a short story i was unaware of (and happen to completely despise having read it) ...well, welcome to the new frontier, cowgirl! it is odd to be keenly self-aware of how you have changed with age. you are seeping into something beautiful and well-rounded and you are an absolutely lovely vintage, jones!

it was a queer new feeling to be the oldest woman sitting in the circle of women on the bright hardwood floor of a trendy little shop in a trendy hipster neighborhood wishing for a buckwheat zafu pillow for my fat ass as our meetings got longer and longer. i never got around to buying one. i've got a few more beautiful wise white hairs on my head and the younger women in the club let my girlfriend and me play our Old Lady Literature and Old Grandma Feminism parts pretty well. most of all, i liked hearing what the youngest women had to say. i liked getting into hearing their point of view--once they stopped asking me for my preferred pronouns. i read most of those old books--delta of venus, baise-moi, tropic of cancer––in my late twenties and early thirties sometime. i understood them academically in the context of historic waves of feminism and it was interesting to discuss them anew with women who were not old enough to have been reading that stuff when i was just discovering it, some of whom don't believe in textbook feminist wave stuff i was taught or have never even heard about it. it's so fascinating hear from a generation that wasn't really speaking in the conversation when i was at the tail end of my college years nearly a decade ago. i'd listen attentively to how they broke the books down, how they liked or disliked a character vehemently here or there. they expressed the natural shock at some of the scenes and giggled over others not realizing the deviance we encountered was tame compared to what was coming. with each new book, we grew increasingly comfortable with each other and open to challenging and questioning each other as we took deeper dives. i enjoyed this group of women and each unique perspective we had to offer of ourselves so much.

near the bottom of the list was pauline réage's story of o. i dug out my old used copy with the stark white cover purchased at the newman center book sale for about 25¢ on a happy sunny morning sometime just after i'd gone back to school...again. i took it home, slid it into the drawer of my nightstand along with a bunch of slim volumes of poetry and some anaïs nin journals. when i first got it, i took it out and read a bit occasionally. it was a lot for me to digest back then. it was truly the most aggressive deviant sex i'd read in my life. i hadn't picked it up much at all since that first reading, though. maybe it was the long span of time it took me to plod through it initially or perhaps the sheer shock value of the graphic sex but i missed so much of réage's messaging then. condensing it into a two-week read was heavy but this time, i was less concerned with the brutal consensual/nonconsensual sex that was happening and more hung up on the lavish poetry of the sentences that i hadn't ever fully appreciated. my girlfriend's history lesson put it in further perspective. this was a gift, a love letter to réage's own lover. the details seemed softer. originally published anonymously, there was speculation that a woman had written it because of the careful attention to details of the clothing, the fabrics, knowledge of dressmaking and lingerie. it reads with tangential descriptions that reminded me this time around of lingering on each word from george rr martin.

it has been awhile since that last book club night but i admit, i've read the passage over and over since then.

"Well," thought O, "the day I was so afraid would arrive is here, the day when I'd merely be a shadow in René's past. And I'm not even sad; the only thing I feel for him is pity, and knowing he doesn't desire me any longer, I can see him every day without any trace of bitterness, without the least regret, without even feeling hurt. And yet only a few weeks ago I dashed all the way across town to his office, to beg him to tell me he still loved me. Was that all my love was, all it meant? So light, so easily gone and forgotten? Is solace that simple? And solace is not even the right word. I'm happy."(réage 186)

all the brutality one can be willing to suffer for the idea of love. all the violence one can possibly consent to willingly. all the absolute giving of oneself to another regardless of what they plan to do with that. none of the newly most beautiful things about the book (the way i understand it as i am now) mattered to me as much as that single passage that lept from the page. i wasn't ready to understand the message hidden here years ago or maybe i needed to live some more to understand it...and it is a stark contrast with how completely rational and simple it feels now to say, right! that! that's how easy it is now. i've learned to set it down. i have learned not to want what i haven't got and my robotheart runs at full logical capacity. finally.

i loved you...or at least i think i did. i think a lot about consent these days and i know you never consented to be loved by me. it was immature and naïve to think we would ever be something tangible, substantial. i know that now...and i probably knew it all along. and i think you were only pretending not to know how i felt but it doesn't really matter, either. i don't think you meant to do this or maybe you did. it doesn't really matter. i was only an apprentice to love for that long while. but it's gone. in one second, in one split fucking second, it vanished. it stopped hurting and i knew right away that what i've felt most definitely was not love, not really. over these long hot summers of waiting and periodically wanting you to want me in return, i've learned so many lessons about myself. and also, i don't love you anymore. well, not like that. not anymore.

it took loving you in this imaginary/real way to learn that i really fucking love me and that i'm only going to get the love that i think i deserve. i thought that maybe the most love i deserved was what you were willing to give...and the way you could say sweet things late at night after you'd been drinking and then forget them conveniently the next morning. i let that happen so i've learned from that, too...but it is a cruel thing to do to a person, you know. it was a lesson i needed to learn. i hope you don't do this to other women, too...though i suspect you might. i have been the hardest person for me to love for a damned long time but i love myself more now. i feel invincible and strong and singular. i am living through my most difficult time with as much grace and courage as i can muster. i am, in the thick of it, finding out about the kind of person i am and the person i am is committed to thriving.

i am grateful for the book club this summer and look forward to continuing to meet with this hopscotch band of women i've been drawn to for months now. it let me carve out time for myself but also, perhaps the greatest unexpected reward, it led me to finally put a finger on the very feeling that i couldn't name in that exact moment as it happened.

i am older. i am wiser. i am self-aware. i am stronger. i am thankful.



.what came before. - .what happened next.

a series of walls - 29th january 2o21
ear-worms live on memories you preserve in your brain - 14 july 2019
606 days - 18 june 2019
a diamond at the bottom of the drain - 20 october 2017
baseball season to football season, abbreviated - 25 september 2017

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