Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Autographs, photographs, and love.

I've come to realize that getting a celebrity's autograph is pointless. Meeting a celebrity in person can be a giddy experience, but the scratchy signature they make--probably you'll never even look at it again, and if you do, the only joy in it is remembering the meeting. And what a waste if the only thing you remember about the meeting is "oh yeah, Bruce Campbell--I made him write his name on some paper and then I walked away." I've met a couple famous people since and I've shook hands or exchanged a few words, left without any souvenir, and been happy.

For the same reason, I don't take a lot of photos. Occasionally I'll take touristy (or naked) pics to share with people, or I'll take a stab at artsy photography, but I almost never take photos of my friends; I don't do bar pics or party pics. Looking at the photo won't take me back to the day when "MOOSE EARS!" was the funniest joke ever told. Nothing will take me back to that day. And that's okay. I had that day. And do I really want to relive "MOOSE EARS!" forever when the future might hold, say, "T-REX HANDS!"?

It's a shame to waste a moment by trying to make it into an artifact. Life is ephemeral, memories don't have shit on experiences, and any artifacts that don't rot or demagnetize will be incinerated when the sun swallows the earth. Realizing this is what made me able to fall in love.

Love is wonderful and warmfuzzy and joyous, and it always ends in pain. There's no "happily ever after," because in real life, the story keeps going until you break up or someone dies. The best you can hope for is to get hit by a bus together.

Except that's not true. The best you can hope for is to spend a summer evening lying in the grass with your head on his belly, hands loosely entwined, talking about nothing, watching the orange glow of sunset wash over the clouds. The moment isn't forever; it's only good. Better to love and lose and all that. Better to go through the cycle of suffering, to want and not have, to have and not keep, to endure the pain every time around, than never to have those moments at all.

At the end there's nothing. I don't have a damn thing to paste in my scrapbook or frame on my shelf. Even the memories cause more grief than joy to think about. Why the fuck did I even bother? Because I was happy. And that time is as real as now.

I don't want to lose love. I want those ephemeral good parts to be as long and as many as possible. I don't like that love--or life, for that matter--is temporary. But I accept it. It's worth it.

This isn't a breakup or pre-breakup post or anything like that. It's just a reflection. Right now I'm in a happy relationship, and I worry sometimes that it'll hurt when it ends. Telling myself "don't think about that" doesn't work with my model of thinker, and telling myself "maybe it'll last forever" sells about as well as saying that my kitty went to a nice farm upstate. (Also, I feel like staying with someone forever no matter what is about as pleasant as a thirty-year-old crippled cat with cancer still staggering helplessly around some farm.) So instead I tell myself "it will hurt. That's the price you pay."

I'm willing to pay. The price is fair--no, not fair, it's a goddamn steal for all this joy. Just bill me later, please.


  1. Amen.

    When I was seventeen, I went to Florida with two of my closest friends. It was the first time any of us had been that far away with no adult supervision anywhere in sight. There are pictures (somewhere) of some of the stuff we did. The morning we left, we walked down the beach for what felt like forever and the sunrise was just burning and golden and RIGHT THERE, and the waves looked like sparkling glass.

    No camera (or any of these words) can capture that; if you weren't there, well, then you weren't there. What matters is the memory and that sometimes when I hit a rough patch in my life, I can feel like we're still walking on that beach and whatever's going on is just an illusion. That's about as close to magical as I've got.

  2. Brock - When I was nineteen, I went out to the San Juan islands with some friends. It was a brisk but brilliantly sunny day in March and we were on a cliff over the sea, a hundred feet over the frothy, rocky beach. There were bald eagle nests in the pines over us, and as we looked up in the clear sky, an eagle soared directly overhead. My friend Stefan threw his arms wide open and he was silhouetted against the sky, against the eagle whose pose he mirrored, a look of joyous rapture on his face as if he were flying himself.

    I took a picture. It looks like a dude sticking his arms out. You can even kinda make out a bird in the background.

    The moment is not ruined--it could not be--but it sure isn't helped either by that photo, and I wish I hadn't wasted one instant of it looking through a viewfinder.

  3. There are only two people in the world I wouldn't mind having an autograph of, and one of them is a calligrapher. (Herman Zapf, and Donald E. Knuth), the rest I'm not interested in holding on to. (and Herman Zapf's signature probably is pretty).

  4. I didn't think photos meant anything, until my mom took all my baby pictures away when she ran off. Now, I really wish I could look back and see how I looked as a kid, how my little sister and I played, everything that I can only remember bits and pieces of or sometimes things that only get triggered by a glance at a photo.

  5. (Also, I feel like staying with someone forever no matter what is about as pleasant as a thirty-year-old crippled cat with cancer still staggering helplessly around some farm.)

    Fucking right. Sometimes, I tell my bf that I want to grow old with him...and then I'll always add "...y'know, as long as things keep being as good as they are now." Because honestly, if he started being a bastard one day I wouldn't want to stick around. I already did that for nine years with my now-ex husband.

  6. Yes. This. SO this.

    If I want to record my thought process at a given time, I'll write, not have a picture. Writing gives me more information, anyway, and can be done after the fact.

  7. How curious. I just earlier this afternoon was ruminating also on the knowing of future pain in relationships and how it warps our sense of enjoyment in the now, on my other, more private blog. In my case, it's the anticipation of possible hurt inherent to a poly person dating a mono person. Le sigh. But still, the joy is worth it.

  8. This definitely touches a nerve for me. I was a mono person, and started dating a poly person. It was good. Things went along just swimmingly. Then they started getting more serious. I started to think about "maybe a future together" - not picket fences and two cats in the yard, mind you - just a long term continuation of what we had right then.

    She ended it not too long after, saying that her life with her primary was too stressed by our relationship.

    I went into the relationship with an open mind and an open heart. I loved as thoroughly as I could, and was loved to the extent she was able.

    It was a glorious thing while it lasted.

    and when it ended, it ripped my heart out.

    and I'd do it all over again, given the chance.

  9. everything that I can only remember bits and pieces of or sometimes things that only get triggered by a glance at a photo

    Yes, this. I'm a very visual person, and photos are an important aspect of my life and my memories. Looking at photos does indeed make me feel as though I am back at that time, just like smells can instantly draw you back. Those are very real feelings. If they weren't, well, "triggers" wouldn't be such an issue for rape victims such as myself (I only mention that so people don't think I'm being insensitive by making the comparison).

    You might not be back in the actual moment, but it can feel as though you are. Your body knows no different. I accept the bad as well as the good with that when it comes to photos and video.

    Whilst I can see problems with obsessively needing to document and view life experiences through lenses (people who go to concerts and spend the whole time viewing it through their camera as they film it for example) I don't consider the time spent capturing a few of those moments as wasted.

  10. I'm like Ozymandias. I rarely ever take pictures but I try to keep written records of all the important moments in my life so that I don't forget the bits and pieces. But I suspect it has less to do with the inferiority of photos and more to do with, yeah, just not being a very visual person. The mental images I conjure up rereading what I've written are way more vivid than the pictures I can take--and the flow of the moment does't get interrupted.


  11. Oh, wow. I realize this is an old post, but I was recently linked to your blog (from yesmeansyes maybe?) and I have been reading through your archives. But this is really hitting me hard right now.

    I've been in a relationship for 5.5 years, married for 4. For the last year we've been open-ish.... had a dont ask/don't tell thing, at my request. But the stress of sneaking around and hiding just became too much once I found a lover I really cared for, and I recently told my husband that I need to be able to be more open about this with him, communicating, and it's really really stressing that relationship. To the point where we may end up getting divorced. Because I can't be monogamous, and I also can't spend the rest of my life feeling like my partner and I aren't on the same team.

    But at the same time, my lover now has a monogamous girlfriend, and we're over. For now, he says. For the indefinite future. But let's be friends, he says. Only now we barely talk.

    And this double whammy of greif and stress has me so depressed I wonder if shit is even worth it. But I try to console myself with the thought that my husband and I have had a good run, even if it ends now and I feel like my life is over. And what I had with my lover this summer was beautiful and brilliant and intense. And it was good. But I don't know if I really believe that, that it was worth it.

    And so this post just has me all in tears.