no one has ever asked me about my theory feelings before laura asked me tonight, although on two different occasions, maybe 10 years apart, men have said—when i told them about what i do—“well, theory is really sexy.” i was sort of psyched that they got it—because of the getting it, not because of them.
and i told laura yes, sadly, always, in the most inappropriate of spaces. i also said i can’t really be friends with people who aren’t. i mean, i can, but i’m 30-45% humoring them; i can never really be happy with anyone who doesn’t care, even if we’re not talking about derrida, just shitty ex-boyfriends, which i always hope will end up back at derrida, or maybe at teresa brennan or andre lepecki talking about the perpetual agitation of modernity, since capitalism has been very much implicated in my breakups. we can definitely talk about kanye, too.
then i remembered that i had just told my therapist about this critical theory imperative in relationships and she laughed a little—at me, then with me—and said that i was being a little specific if my specifics, but that my specifics were not impossibilities. i have already told her multiple times that all of my boyfriends have always listened to and engaged with my unrelenting feminist talk and that this is the one nice thing i will say about all of them. i mean, that’s just totally baseline.
rebecca schneider, the explicit body in performance
roxanne dunbar, “outlaw woman” in the feminist memoir project: voices from women’s liberation
“Sex is not a thing, it’s a relation; it’s a non-relation in propinquity to some kind of a recognition; it’s a sock drawer for the anxious affects; it’s a gesture cluster that can be organized in an identity for the purpose of passing through normative sociality; it’s an event, an episode; it feels so good, or not; it’s an experience of becoming disorganized that, at the same time, can be lived through, assimilated, talked about, tracked (noticed, fetishized, historicized, genealogized), and forgotten, while also being a threat to well-being and to fantasies that in the good life people ought to be protected from being too chaotic, unstable, ambivalent, or enigmatic. Normativity is a vote for disavowing, drowning out, delegitimating, or distracting from all that’s ill-fitting in humans: it can never drown out, though, the threat posed by sex’s weird tastes and tonalities to the desire for the everyday to be simpler to live through.”
i like to keep this blog less personal/more symbolic/cryptic but i am breaking that tradition to note (mostly for myself) a mark of progress, or time passing, or wounds healing. mostly that i haven’t checked his fb or other internet presences in almost 2 months (if you don’t know me, this is epic). i have dutifully sat on the far side of the bus (so i can’t/won’t look up when we pass his apartment building to see if his light is on) for almost 3 months. and even though i’ve catalogued everything and written it all down, i’m doing what i can to let it lie for a while. no rereading.
it’s taken five months to get to this place - which is like traveling back by steamer from a place you arrived at by 737 - but i’m getting there. it’s good to know i can get there. but also, in getting there, in “living through it” (as we must) i have come a lot closer to really understanding the above. how completely disorganizing life (love) (sex) can be and how love or lust or whatever that was can just tear through and shatter your everyday. and that, perhaps instead of fighting so hard to regain “control,” i/we should be fighting to come to terms with chaos. to be grateful of survival, but accept that discomfort is not just part of but essential to our being here. blistered and fucked up but still standing, living to fight another day, that’s really the only way to be. and having someone explain that in articulate theory is really validating. so amen. let’s drink to that.
at the end of the summer, when i told my therapist i couldn’t take the garbage bags out on garbage night even though it was only two flights of stairs, she said she thought i was depressed and sent me to a psychiatrist. i told him about how i kept looking at emails between me and my (now ex-) boyfriend from the last 5 years, which included the several years that we were friends and not together. this ultimately destructive practice had started innocently. i genuinely didn’t understand how our relationship had gone from casual friends, and then pretty intimate friends, to my breaking up with my boyfriend of ten years and moving three times in order to have a relationship with someone that i suddenly really, really wanted a relationship with, but had mostly made fun of about his relationships before. and i’d look at old emails, really old emails, and be like, oh, yeah, he was obviously in love with me five years ago, or four years ago, or three years ago. but this exercise could also end in tears when i found the many emails between us that were about past relationships, which were way too graphic for my predilections for both monogamy and emotional protection. anyway, i told the psychiatrist and was like, “i really don’t get it. i haven’t been obsessive in this way since i was 19. i’ve never acted like this as an adult.” and the answer might have been: i was taking adderall for adhd at the time, and i definitely shouldn’t have been. but my psychiatrist’s answer, which i think is equally relevant, was: “when we are going through times of very intense stress we often resort to our old symptoms.”
this is one of the most important things anyone said to me last year. because no one should ever be under so much stress that they are resorting to symptoms they haven’t had in fifteen years, or having symptoms that are that extreme in the first place. what i am trying to say is: not checking someone’s internet presence, or not once since breaking up looking at a single old email, is something to celebrate. so is theory that helps us understand all of this and, even better, connects it to the larger situation. i am drinking a glass of wine while i read about phenomenology, technology, and feminism.
(ps. i blushed and also i love fragmentary and scrapbooky and cryptic.)
neal is one of my most enthusiastic friends and that’s what he enthusiastically said to me when i told him about the time i yelled at my ex-boyfriend for three hours in the denver airport. this validation came during an email exchange while i was still in lewiston. neal said he was getting in touch because he had “secretly, or maybe not so secretly” heard about the breakup and wanted to check in on me “not in a nosy way, just in a you are missed way.” i got a lot of nice emails in those few weeks but he was the only person to reference breakup-related gossip, which i found impressive. he also wanted to know if i had read simone weil or chris kraus, and what my thoughts were, and then he sent me a bunch of his thoughts on them.
neal knows how to combine funny and moving better than anyone i know, and i was crying laughing tonight at his show, especially during his rap-like remixes of bullshit seventies white male artists and when some of the juggalos held up a sign that said “negation bitches.” NEGATION BITCHES. as neal said in an interview, in genuine appreciative wonder of some of the activities of the juggalos, “who does that?” i loved his performance—and i mean i really loved it—because it combines and illuminates class politics and feminist theory in a way that is totally scary and hilarious. but his celebrating my (totally deserved, btw) airport tirade also helps.
In ”Black Sun,” depression is characterized by a denial of this normal childhood prehistory, or by what Ms. Kristeva calls ”the denial of negation.” ”Negation” - the usual infantile acceptance of the loss of oneness with the mother - is unconsciously refused by the depressive, who clings to a fantasy of union with the mother instead.
Ms. Kristeva is also original but highly unorthodox in her analysis of Christianity’s avoidance of ”the desire to put the father to death,” and the role of such repression in the genesis of melancholia.
From “Sadness Starts Early,” 1990 NYT review of Julia Kristeva’s Black Sun: Depression and Melancholia.
also: “the normal child ”leaves the crib to meet the mother in the realm of representations” - that is, a world of language and symbols. ”if i did not agree to lose mother,’ says ms. kristeva of successful separation and the acquisition of language that compensates for the mother’s loss, ‘i could neither imagine nor name her.’ the depressive, however, gets it backward: ‘in order to protect mother I kill myself.’ this leads ms. kristeva to a paradoxical idea: ‘my depression,’ she writes, ‘points to my not knowing how to lose.’”
In The Problem with Work, Kathi Weeks boldly challenges the presupposition that work, or waged labor, is inherently a social and political good. While progressive political movements, including the Marxist and feminist movements, have fought for equal pay, better work conditions, and the recognition of unpaid work as a valued form of labor, even they have tended to accept work as a naturalized or inevitable activity. Weeks argues that in taking work as a given, we have “depoliticized” it, or removed it from the realm of political critique. Employment is now largely privatized, and work-based activism in the United States has atrophied. We have accepted waged work as the primary mechanism for income distribution, as an ethical obligation, and as a means of defining ourselves and others as social and political subjects. Taking up Marxist and feminist critiques, Weeks proposes a postwork society that would allow people to be productive and creative rather than relentlessly bound to the employment relation. Work, she contends, is a legitimate, even crucial, subject for political theory.