While waiting for the subway, on my way to see The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I was privy to the infinite moment of four high school girls.
I had just missed the last train and the platform was nearly empty. Two girls, no more than fifteen, passed through the turnstile in tight jeans and wool sweaters, followed shortly after by two other somewhat more boisterous girls, giggling and shouting. One girl with mermaid long hair was clearly the leader. She wore a floaty red tank top and held the precious paper bag-wrapped bottle of whatever in her confident fist. She passed it to the others and they sipped dutifully, but not nervously.
I know I was their age ten years ago, but I was also never their age. I was never out in Brooklyn at 9:30 on a Saturday night. I never carried myself with their self-assured, giddy grace. I never drank or strutted or screamed. I never knew that kind of hyper happiness, not until years later. In fact, I don’t remember there being a time before age twenty that some part of me wasn’t consumed with the fear of what my parents would think.
When the train pulled up, Mermaid Hair pretended to hitchhike and then switched to giving a queenly wave to the passengers. The car was not very full for a Saturday night, and when we had taken our seats, I found I couldn’t take my eyes off them, though had I looked around myself I’m certain I would have seen every pair of eyes in the car fixated on this rowdy foursome. One girl poured a few drops of Vitamin Water down another’s neck while one with pink highlights shrieked delightedly. The smallest girl in a grey wool sweater said something to the leader and then, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, they took off their shirts and traded, exposing brightly colored bras and laughing. They were brazen and bright eyed and I knew immediately that they felt infinite.
This is how, in the ten minutes it took me to get from my apartment to the BAM Cinema, I had borne witness to everything The Perks of Being A Wallflower would try to accomplish over the next two hours.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a book I loved very much in high school. It’s a book a lot of people loved, and then a lot of people hated, because that’s how these things usually work. Things are novel and then they are trite and then you will start to doubt whether anything you ever really loved was wonderful after all. The Perks of Being a Wallflower was a wonderful book because I loved it and not the other way around. It was an introduction to subculture for many of us living in white bread suburbia who hadn’t yet begun to conceive of things like gay football players or Smiths records or cross-dressing performance artists. I, like the eponymous wallflower Charlie, had never been to a real party or done drugs or been kissed. And I, like Charlie, latched onto things like sadness and crushes and books and English teachers. Of course I read it three times and dreamed of one day being rowdy and brazen and infinite. I was dying to be infinite, but nothing infinite ever seemed to happen to me.
Logan Lerman is the movie Charlie and he was born in the 90s which means I’m not allowed to think he’s as handsome as I do. But the truth is that this is a movie about Logan Lerman’s innocent face and the slightest hint of his smile and if that doesn’t interest you then you should probably go see Trouble With the Curve or something because this is not the film for you. But really, if you feel at all curmudgeonly about teenagers and their Very Special Moments, you won’t like this movie at all. I happen to love Very Special Moments, which is why, halfway through the movie, I was simultaneously trying to figure out how construct a twinkly light headboard and an occasion for wearing a semi-formal gown, and then I remembered I’m a 25 year old woman and those occasions are called weddings.
Emma Watson is Sam, she of the twinkly light bedroom, Morrissey posters, and pixie cut - a telling hairstyle for a movie about manic pixie dream friends, with Patrick as the manic half of this charming duo. They are the friends that lonesome high school kids dream of - the kind who suddenly swoop out of the sky doing choreographed dances and driving you through tunnels and toasting your friendship at parties.
I’ve gone on forever without mentioning Mary Elizabeth, who is maybe the best character of all. She is the epitome of the 90s hipster, with her holier than thou attitudes and fragile self-worth. She is a buddhist vegan zine-writer with a half-buzzed haircut and a whole hell of a lot to say. Mary Elizabeth is everything I worry I become in relationships - a difficult combination of needy and patronizing. She wants to expose Charlie to things. It’s the only way she knows how to love him. She is the opposite of delicate, star-necklaced Sam and she’s much too much for wide-eyed Charlie, and for some reason it breaks my heart that he can’t love unlikable Mary Elizabeth instead.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that these characters are stereotypes of the anti-stereotype, and that it kind of works because everyone in high school is a sort of parody of the person they’ll eventually become. Take me, for example, at age 16, scribbling poetry into a collage-covered notebook, wearing tulle skirts from the sale rack at Arden B, and getting on my high horse with just about everyone. I held hands twice with my boyfriend junior year and then broke up with him in a letter after he didn’t talk to me at a party, which was a birthday party and not a real party because someone’s parents were home and no one drank alcohol out of red plastic cups.
And here I am, ten years later, still pouring out my heart and wearing things I can’t pull off and waiting for men to make the first move every time. And last night I stood with my back against the subway tile, my earbuds in and my eyes locked on four teenage girls who don’t need a book like The Perks of Being a Wallflower. And good for them. Good for all of us - infinite, invincible, and otherwise.
“You,” he said, “are a terribly real thing in a terribly false world, and that, I believe, is why you are in so much pain.”—Emilie Autumn, The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls. With thanks to APoetReflects. (via rimeswriting)
“And then not to talk. To follow the dark paths of the mind and enter the past, to visit books, to brush aside their branches and break off some fruit.”—Virginia Woolf, The Waves. (via fuckyeahvirginiawoolf)
“He’d once told me that the art of getting ahead in New York was based on learning how to express dissatisfaction in an interesting way. The air was full of rage and complaint. People had no tolerance for your particular hardship unless you knew how to entertain them with it.”—Don DeLillo, White Noise (via conozco)
Lately it feels as if the days have been barreling forward. I’m changing in the ways you never expect you will when you get older. I buy groceries. I make soup. I wake early. I used my oven for what might be the first time in two years and consequently enjoyed the pleasure of watching the two inch burn on my arm heal.
Time only ever slows down on the subway, while I fight for breathing room among the 9 to 5 commuters. Two weeks ago, a man tried to rob me on a crowded car. At least, I think he did. I couldn’t be sure and I couldn’t prove a thing, but suddenly my purse was unzipped and he was standing very near. I had been distracted by the conversation of three teenage girls beside me. They made me feel old and ungainly. I wondered how long it took them to curl their hair in the mornings. I was suddenly very aware of how sloppily I apply my eyeliner. I was very unaware of the man with backpack behind me. Vanity and nostalgia are dangerous, useless things on a crowded subway.
Since then, I’ve been jumpy. I turn to look behind me more often. I touch my phone like a talisman.
I have nightmares about weddings. My wedding. I’m not getting married, but I dream that I am and don’t want to be. I’m too afraid to back out, too afraid to run. It’s like those dreams where someone’s chasing you and you’re frozen to the spot. Except for me, it’s my own future coming after me and I don’t want to disappoint anyone by running away.
Money is tight. I buy the cheapest wine I can find. A loaf of french bread for a dollar fifty. A can of tomato sauce. Voila: dinner.
I feel like I’ve been rained on more than usual this fall. I seem to always be caught without my umbrella. The sky has been especially brilliant in Brooklyn - a bright grey, the color of new sidewalk in sunshine. The blinking whites of the eye of the storm. I wish I could paint it and hang it on my wall, or paint the whole ceiling that shade and wait for it to pour.
In fact, it did start pouring, one day from my bathroom ceiling, filling my light fixture with rusty water. My super repaired the leak and repainted the ceiling and neither of us bothered to clean up. The tile floor’s still speckled with white ceiling crumbs.
I picked up a red wooden side table from the street last week on my way home from the gym. I lugged it ungracefully into my apartment. I even bought glue to fix the broken part. It has a sliding glass door. I can’t resist anything with a sliding glass door. I have no idea what I’ll display in this dilapidated thing. I wonder what it’s like to be the sort of person who owns matching furniture from one of those furniture stores that are always oddly dark. I imagine its awful, not being able to pick up new things from the street. Awful to be tethered to such heavy things.
“One girl with blonde roots showing in her pink bob and a lip ring in her round face that strangely made me even more sure that she wasn’t more than fifteen said, “This is so much better than Six Flags,” in reaction to which her friends nodded vigorously and I swooned heartily, because if you’ve truly convinced yourself that watching me buy a used Boy Scout uniform shirt is more fun than riding roller coasters, you’re doing disgruntled youth exactly right.”—fannylemon:
“A story is not like a road to follow … it’s more like a house. You go inside and stay there for a while, wandering back and forth and settling where you like and discovering how the room and corridors relate to each other, how the world outside is altered by being viewed from these windows. And you, the visitor, the reader, are altered as well by being in this enclosed space, whether it is ample and easy or full of crooked turns, or sparsely or opulently furnished. You can go back again and again, and the house, the story, always contains more than you saw the last time. It also has a sturdy sense of itself of being built out of its own necessity, not just to shelter or beguile you.”—Alice Munro via A Poet Reflects:
“I carry silent baggage. I have packed myself into silence so deeply and for so long that I can never unpack myself using words. When I speak, I only pack myself a little differently.”—Herta Müller, The Hunger Angel (via yesyes)
1) Don’t go to “writers parties” especially if they’re made up of people who “know each other from the internet.”
2) Don’t spend too much time online or indoors. Go do something substantial you’ll remember later because you sure as hell won’t remember slumming around Facebook or watching TV.
3) Don’t “network.” Being friendly to someone because you think it will help your career should be a hanging offense. Be straight with people. They deserve your honesty. If you want something tell them. Life’s too short to schmooze.
4) Don’t try to be funny. Be funny but let it happen naturally. Don’t court it. If you know your characters well enough and you want them to be funny they’ll be funny on their own. If you want to learn about humor read the dialogue from War and Peace.
5) Don’t read what everyone else is reading. You need secret weapons not common currency. Find the beautiful books everyone’s forgotten.
6) Don’t get impressed by your own hype. When you get good press pretend it’s about someone else. Attention vs. purity is like salt vs. the slug.
7) Don’t ignore bad press. Let it make you mad. Remember the words of your detractors and use that anger to make yourself better. Most passion fades fast but anger is a thing you can live off.
8) Don’t get caught up in the romanticism of “being a writer.” The work matters not the fantasy life. Where will you go when the romance is gone?
9) Don’t write the kind of books you think will sell. Write the kind you’d not just WANT to buy but HAVE to buy.
10) Do: live as wild and free and earnest as you can; work every day and try your best to beat your best from before. Love the truth and true people. Respect strength and resolve. (Don’t wait for inspiration; it’s a fluke and a half-mythical thing for weekenders.) Put your head down and square your jaw and write honestly every day about what it’s like to live in the time you live.
“And the speck of my heart, in my shed of flesh
and bone, began to sing out, the way the sun
would sing if the sun could sing, if light had a
mouth and a tongue, if the sky had a throat, if
god wasn’t just an idea but shoulders and a spine,
gathered from everywhere, even the most distant
planets, blazing up. Where am I? Even the rough
words come back to me now, quick as thistles. Who
made your tyrant’s body, your thirst, your delving,
your gladness? Oh tiger, oh bone-breaker,
oh tree on fire! Get away from me. Come closer.”—Mary Oliver, from section 3 of “West Wind” in West Wind: Poems and Prose Poems (Mariner Books, 1997) (via growing-orbits)
“Reading and writing are the same thing; it’s just one’s the more active and the other’s the more passive. They flow into each other. And in the same sense, making books has always felt very connected to my bookselling experience, that of wanting to draw people’s attention to things that I liked, to shape things that I liked into new shapes. I’m basically a curator.”—Jonathan Lethem (via austinkleon)
“Maybe the internet has made all of us think our little lives, all listless and uncertain, are fascinating and worth attention and praise. And maybe it’s convinced us that, despite all our storybook flailing and I’m-such-a-fabulous-mess-ing, we secretly do have things pretty well covered. Because a small corner of the internet has told us we do”—Richard Lawson, The Shrinking Boundaries of Being a (Certain Kind of) Twentysomething (via theatlantic)