i wanted to write a column about petty, parasitic obsession. where it burrows, how it’s a symptom of the membranous self. i wanted to clamp on a scrunchie, declare myself fangirl. the-only-critic jessica hopper once tweeted, “replace the word ‘fangirl’ with ‘expert’ and see what happens,” and yes, absolutely, but i still mean to say fangirl. ie. the mission statement was: against the shame of caring, i care. against my own work as a critic, most of the songs i like might actually be terrible. but they make me feel, or feel like, and here at heartworms HQ, being an expert in i-feel-like was the only qualification for the job.
but today i am not so sure. today i am thinking about how this column also works to perpetuate the commodification of interests — in the interest of the dreaded brand, the ~not-like-other-gorls coolness.
let’s call the manic pixie dream girl (ramona, summer, stargirl, stargirl) the perceptual inversion of me-as-fangirl (caring, full). those petty obsessions — collecting last words, braiding intricate patterns into shoelaces — ramshackled by the narrator/viewer into limbs, a rockin’ bod, the simulacrum of a personhood. specific enough to feel knowable, empty enough to feel become-able — at least to little me, little em, thinking i needed a “thing,” wondering why i couldn’t just have a favourite brand of orange soda.
i half-wrote so many stories about people wearing electric blue nail polish, people who liked, and who never-ever budged. i, so frozen, so staring at all the dripping figs, hoping my (character’s) socks would do the trick and make us a person, that person, so interesting, so loved, so gone.
what about hating orange soda because you throw it up the day your dog dies, what about no longer being introduced as someone who likes a beverage, what about so-called reinvention is so evil that it’s steeped in disbelief and ridicule. is it disingenuous to change? is it disingenuous to try?
once, when my body was the sickest my body has ever been, a youtube yoga instructor told me to “think of a thing you love about yourself” and i couldn’t think of anything. so i cried, i command+Qed, i wrote. because this didn’t make sense. i did (do) love myself — so? so?
so: words have always mattered too much, and “loving a thing” “a thing” “a thing” shut me down. i just love people in motion — and not for anything decisive necessarily. usually it’s just honest shrugging, the upturn of a clammy hand.
hello you, you on the internet reading this (anyone?). have you read these heartwormses, or none of them, and felt yourself scramble into some buzz about needing to make more, read more, more more? have you deemed me sure about anything?
(i’m not deluded about my own charm; all i know is that i do this to everyone else and really wish that i didn’t.)
hello you, you on the internet reading this (anyone?): i am unsure, i am so unsure, and i am so sorry that anyone ever fed us the myth of “figuring it out,” of arriving in certaintyville where everyone else seems to be living full-time, making today’s rockiness feel even more like our fault/deficiency.
at a book signing, “a 14-year-old asked [Tavi Gevinson] if it was okay to ‘change who you are even if it’s different from who you are on your blog.’
[Tavi’s] answer, of course, was ‘of course.’”
my heart, of course, breaks.
because a blog is another word for a feedback loop: how you present yourself to others which informs how others come to understand you which informs how you come to understand yourself which informs how you present yourself to others. (where is the out?)
first wanting to be (/loving, of course) these literary dream girls without understanding the implications of their blankness to actually being manic-pixied after manic-pixied after manic-pixied, has meant my sparkly parts were (are) too-touched,* all fingerprints on a screen, dark sequins plucked like scales from my ownership. and then the other parts, the hidden shameful bads felt (feel) closer to the truth of me. (they also made me (make me), inevitably, a let-down from fantasy.)
the truth is that, for me, building any level of public persona feels like a one-way ticket to the manic-pixie feedback loop that tightens and tightens into pigeonhole: a vague flotsam of what we like, which then becomes what we are liked for — okay, unroll your eyes; i’m not saying phones are inherently evil or that social media will be the end of us all —
i’m just so afraid of everything fossilizing behind me, my bootprints being used to measure my nowfoot as i continue to walk through a still-wet sidewalk — or as i, well, publish half-thoughts on the internet.
i’m afraid of being misunderstood, sure, but i think i’m most afraid of rigidity, or only getting one audition on the stage of someone else’s perception.
e.g. if i’m wearing a hat when we meet, they’ll think, “ah, em’s a hat guy” evermore; e.g. here’s to hoping that my moon will be full — like, full-full — the one time they look?
it’s okay to have running definitions i think, but i think definitions run. breathless, trickling.
look? again? look-look? now? again? again? warmer, warmer?
okay, now you? you-you? now? now? how about: now?
picking one-ish worm a month has been so fun. it has meant getting to exalt anything, to thank what keeps me safe. but it also sometimes feels like a pointed curational decision between performance/ preservation of me, only to be received, probably, as totality.
(it’s not your fault) (i did it to you) (but what do we do about it)
am i breaking up with <3worms? no, i don’t think so. i still want to love things wholeheartedly, blue-and-green-and-even-red-heartedly. i also just want my impossibly-quickly-hardening imprints to fill up with some of this s-now.
* “too touched” is a phrase borrowed from comedian brain and friend nick zarzycki
emilie kneifel is your secret admirer. find 'em at emiliekneifel.com. this month, em recommends: covering your zinc spots with fruit stickers.