I’m on the UES again. I just came from the dentist. My mouth is numb and I’m slurring my words a bit. I have a temporary bridge on my lower teeth that feels like a retainer. And, of course, I’m overstimulated by the things I see. I stopped into a different cafe (E.A.T.) to write this down. It looked interesting. I was curious. I’m trying to eat leak soup without spilling down my face and onto my cashmere sweater. There was caviar on the menu. Hello UES.
In four short blocks down Madison Ave, I have seen a lot and detected several patterns. Everyone here is blonde. Everyone. Even the Filipina nannies. Even the bald men. Everyone has a great colorist. It’s a very specific blonde with dyed roots to make it look just grown out enough that you’d believe it was natural. It requires constant touch ups. Except that en masse it would have to be a statistical anomaly to have so many blondes in one place that isn’t a Nordic country. I’ve seen the work enough that I could tell you the names of three colorists off the top of my head who do this between here, Montauk and Miami.
Second, I traced a pattern to its source. It’s the second day of legitimate fall. And, like that scene in The Matrix, I keep spotting the same woman. Head to toe she’s got strategically disheveled hair, a black/navy shirt, a butternut squash wool scarf, wide legged cropped jeans that are shredded on the bottom, and black booties with the elastic on the sides. They all bought the same outfit at Madewell. How do I know? Because I went in to that seventh circle of hell today and saw the whole wardrobe. Colors are black, navy, burgundy, butternut, forest green and medium distressed jean. It’s J.Crew for people who don’t like having to think.
Third, there are two hot butchers at Lobel’s. Note to self: first good thing that happens, go there and buy a ribeye. Treat yourself. Fuck it, just go get a steak at an actual restaurant.
Fourth, I saw the most quintessentially UES shoe in the world at a consignment shop. Burgundy patent leather platform strappy Miu Miu heels that have a penny loafer toe. Perfect mix of flirty, preppy and timeless.
Fifth, I applied for a seasonal job at Williams-Sonoma because I don’t hate my life enough. But it’s familiar and it would make for great people watching.
I detest this place so much and yet I have a wickedly morbid curiosity about it. I’m fascinated by this culture. I’m seduced by the dark side. As per usual. A bientôt.
Below is what I wrote on the train on the way to the dentist. It’s a little dark:
I have a heart murmur. It’s benign. Nothing really. Mostly I just have to watch my caffeine intake. But every so often I feel it. It feels as though the floor has dropped out from under my chest. For a split second my breath stops and my lungs choke. My heart’s not broken. It’s just a little bent.
I can always spot the ones whose hearts are a little bent like mine. Not the murmur, but the trauma one faces before one even has the words to put to it. They’re people who had every material need met and were supposed to expect it to paper over the fundamental lack of the ephemeral…the intangible…the psychic and emotional. These kids were not shown love.
Here’s the tell, as in so far as I’ve been able to surmise: they speak really well of the people they love, but never to their faces. What does this look like? They brag a lot. Not about themselves, but about the people who surround them. They do it for two reasons: first, because they truly love their friends; and second, by talking about how amazing the people in their lives, they are constantly getting validation by association.
You will learn every honor and accolade these magical friends possess. You will be, in turns, impressed by them and envious of them as they are seen in their admirer’s eyes. And you will begin to wonder why this person keeps you in their life when everyone else is so illustrious. You will feel diminished in comparison. Maybe a little resentful even. But only if your ego is immature.
They will never tell you they love you to your face.
It’s just not done.
What you catch onto, eventually, is not the absence of love, but the inability of the lover to share the essential detail with the beloved. They do love you. They just can’t say it to your face. It wasn’t done to them and to do it to you would make them way too vulnerable. And if you told them you love them to their face, they’d deflect, afraid to shatter into a thousand pieces.
I know this person way too well at this point. To a large extent, I’m still one of them.
I love grandly. I love intricate details and broad strokes. I will fan girl in total sincerity. I will preen and gavot. I will go to earth’s end. I will die for love. I just don’t know how to live with it. I wasn’t taught how.
Here’s a telling illustration. When I was 17, after a particularly bad fight with my mother, I ran away. Just down the street, but to the safest place I knew. I broke down for the first time in front of a stranger. It was a colossal deal.
Let me put that into context for you. Everything my parents did was to save face. On the outside, at parties, everything was gleaming. On the inside, at home, it was about as cheery as Grey Gardens. But you don’t show your faults, your bulges, your decay, your underbelly. Everything…absolutely everything…was corseted behind nice clothes and orthedontured smiles in staged photos.
So telling the neighbors how bad it was, even just giving them a glimpse, was not done.
I was eventually persuaded to go home that night. But I wouldn’t go inside. I couldn’t. Home terrified me. It was the scariest place in the world. If there had been a map of my neighborhood on parchment, the map maker would have painted a “Thar be dragons here” right at my house’s coordinates.
My mother kept telling me to get in the house. But I kept yelling “no.” She told me not to yell because the neighbors would hear and think I was crazy. Again, my mother’s narcissist projection, but also worth mentioning is the very Mexican notion of “Que dirán los demás?” Roughly, “What will people think?” This is probably the most toxic thought that poisons my culture. Hideous things have been justified using this sentiment.
I told her I didn’t care and why should she? She didn’t love me. At least she never said so. I wasn’t exaggerating. Well, a tiny bit, as you’ll soon see.
I went inside. My mother and I didn’t talk for a week. When she finally did talk to me, she spoke volumes in just a couple phrases. “You lied…”
I read her sinister smile and searched my memory for whatever I could possibly have been caught doing. I was doing a lot, so I didn’t know if I’d been getting sloppy. I steeled myself for her accusation.
“…I did tell you I loved you. When you were 11 and you had pneumonia.”
I couldn’t fault her. She was right. Because I remembered her saying it too. I was sick in bed for a week. It was serious. I heard her say it as she walked out of the room, almost as an afterthought. And it was so abrasive and jarring that it stuck in my memory for its cruelty.
My mother learned to say “I love you” when I was in my 30’s. Over time, it entered the lexicon of our conversations and remained. But I never learned to trust it or find comfort in it because it could all be taken away at a moment’s notice.
I’ve learned to say “I love you” too. And I mean it when I say it. But I don’t say it enough to the people for whom it is meant. I’ve been cold and bitter and cruel. Not anymore, really. But the past haunts me at times. Once you know how low you can go, it’s always there.
I know that I am a product of my mother’s trauma and I’m old enough to recognize that she was a product of her parents’ trauma as well. But the fact that I realize it and am trying to stop the cycle makes it all the harder to accept my mother who could not.
I’ve been listening to a mariachi version of “Padre Nuestro” on repeat lately. It’s the Lord’s Prayer in Spanish. Matthew 6:9. I don’t know why Yom Kippur inspired me, but I think the idea of atoning got me thinking about this. I think it was Elana, the Jewish psychic. She would say it was something Veneranda already knew.
Padre nuestro, que estás en el cielo,
santificado sea tu Nombre;
venga a nosotros tu Reino;
hágase tu voluntad
en la tierra como en el cielo.
Danos hoy nuestro pan de cada día;
perdona nuestras ofensas,
como también nosotros perdonamos a los que nos ofenden;
no nos dejes caer en la tentación,
y líbranos del mal
“Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
I’ve got to learn to forgive if I’m to be forgiven. Catholics talk about contrition. It’s the repentance of past sins. Not only to acknowledge the sin, but to go forward with the intent not to commit it again. This is my meditation for the ostensible future. It’s the only way I’m going to be able to lay down the burden.