I recently discovered a thing that is perhaps known to the rest of mankind but was previously unknown to me, which is that we are never just one self, but more, we are an amalgam of selves. Oh, yes, I mean of course I knew we all had different “sides” as I’ll call them – our social side, our good side, our sweet side, that temper we try to keep under wraps and other undesirable traits that we ascribe to “sides” but what I realized is that all of these sides are not traits, per se, but are all part of our true, authentic self. .That it is the sum total of the good and the bad, the desirable and undesirable that makes us who we really are at the end of the day.
But who am I really? As I was sitting being interviewed again, a process I’ve been though many times in my life now, I wondered which side of me the reporter was going to see. Would she want the writer / journalist side? The person who ran Lumen Editions and was the enfant terrible of publishing for a time? Would she want the teacherly side, the person who could offer her sage advice about publishing and how to go about securing a good job, and hey, if she strikes a good chord with me, might even score a reference or an inside tip. After all, after all of these years in the business, I realized just recently that I have become the very thing or person I once used to hunt and pursue – that is, the mentor, the reference, the touchstone, the person who I look at and say I Want To BE Like Her When I Grow Up.
That anybody would want to be like me is a mystery in itself and I’m not sure that this reporter was after that, though in the past, certainly I have had the experience of being interviewed and then over the next several months, watching the person morph from themselves into version 1.0 of me. I ‘vet seen the same syndrome when I’ve been running companies – the younger women and interns begin as themselves and over the course of time, begin to emulate, just as I once emulated my mentor, only this time it is me whom they emulate. How odd to see other women whom even I would admire – smart, beautiful, talented women, who want to be like me. It’s a strange phenomenon to watch as over the course of several months or years, they take on various traits: suddenly they wear dance shoes with a t-strap and ankle socks. The hair is thrown into a hasty bun and held with a red editing pencil. The skirts lengthen and become darker; the tops are camisoles with a white oxford on top if in the office and nothing if not in the office. They become very Prada – because we all know The Devil Wears Prada and lord knows that it’s my favorite and I love the simplicity of Prada. Even my face is Prada: simple, plain, freckled and surrounded by straight, wheat colored hair. What I am saying is that not only does my attitude and my approach to publishing become a thing to be emulated and studied, but my very being becomes something to emulate and to copy. I begin to see Sadi facsimiles in the office and it’s flattering, I know, and I keep reminding myself of this and my husband reminds me too, but it’s hard when these very same admirers would have my own husband in a flash if given the chance because that would be the ultimate score to make them me. He is the ultimate Sadi accessory, if a person could be such a thing. How sad to see my own husband reduced to accessory status.
Yes, there are things that make him desirable – even highly desirable. He is handsome, wickedly smart, funny, talented, charming, handsome, and much more (which I’ll keep private out of respect for him), and most importantly to young girls, he has that thing that they find irresistible – he is attractive, yes, but he has professional power and that is the most attractive thing of all.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying in the real world this is what gives my husband his worth any more than the fact that all my life I’ve worn dance shoes with ankle socks defines me. It’s simply that these are the obvious, overt qualities or things that are, some think, acquirable. To flirt with my husband as some do is to see for a moment what it is to be me. Now, some flirt with him because of who he is, true – but I was surprised to find that some flirt with my husband not so much because of him, but because of me – because of some fixation on me. I once had a woman who was so fixated on me, who rang me incessantly, pursued my husband for some kind of affair – emotional, physical, whichever – but at the end of the day, it became clear to both my husband and I had it was I whom she wanted to fuck, if not literally, then metaphorically.
In her case, it was not about professional gain, it was about a pure fascination with someone she didn’t know (me) and finding that interesting and perhaps not being able to deal with feelings of attraction to another woman. Frankly, I myself have no problem with this. I’ve been attracted to another woman and even in love with another woman and didn’t sublimate this attraction and turn it toward anything or anyone else. Yet I realize that that is rare. That this person couldn’t handle an attraction to a woman and so took the depths of that attraction, the desire she had for me and to be like me as well, and turned it toward my husband whom she pursued like a sad cat in heat.
An interviewer asked me what I would do if another woman pursued my husband or was interested. What could I say? It’s really simple, isn’t it. I’m not going to have a cat fight over a man, no matter how much I may love him. it’s too stupid and I’m too old for that and even when I was young, who could bother. Hell, I’d rather go home and listen to opera and all the great emotions than argue with my husband about flirtation or an affair. The fact remains that if he is attracted to another woman who pursues him now or in the future, there is very little I can do about this. He either will or will not be responsive, depending on is level of satisfaction in our marriage, his own self-esteem and ego, his own strength of character, and his own, most importantly, sense of self worth for at the en d of the day we all know that having flirtations and affairs outside of your primary relationship is all about proving that you are The Man or The Woman and that you can and, frankly, if you need to prove that to yourself, then I think that’s pathetic. I think you don’t know who you are and I know that I do not want anyone like that in my life. So to answer my interviewer’s question, I simply wouldn’t be bothered and would, at this point, wash my hands clean of the whole, um, affair, because I’ve been down this road before and I have to tell you – it’s so fucking boring.
Selves – who we are, who we are at different times and who I am at this moment is part of a great mesh of characteristics and life experiences. There are those aspects of our personality we choose to reveal and others we keep locked, as Tom Ripley would say, in the basement. We do all have our basement; I believe that, though perhaps, I would hope, none are as heavy with luggage as Tom Ripley’s. Certainly, I have little to hide, but there are things about me that I absolutely do not want to discuss.
My trick was always to throw out a story that seemed personal or was personal but that didn’t matter much to me. IT gave the illusion of a very personal and deep connection when really, all I was doing was handing out the same story to everyone and yes, the story may be true, but it was not one that had any deep emotional resonance anymore. It may have at one time, but now, now that I can speak it and say it; the depth of resonance has lessened to be sure. What this means, what we say when we say this or write this is that I can tell you this story because there is nothing here with you can hurt me anymore. It is a protective device and one that works well for all of us at various times. We may not all put up such a front, but let’s not kid ourselves; We all put up a front or façade, and some are prettier or more elaborate than others.
Mine just happens to be, for the most part, pretty convincing and looks like a great, old house by the beach that you might want to explore. I imagine my façade as an old Victorian, right on the waterfront and overlooking the twilight with many, many rooms and a little garret in which I sit overlooking everything. The truth though is that for this great big house with all of its rooms and all of its interesting features, what I reveal here is that it is only the one room I occupy – the garret. I see myself there, drinking tea and overlooking it all and wondering about my neighbors and which room they are in.
The truth is – we own the whole grounds. This earth is ours, this land is ours, the way we maintain our garden is telling of who we are and how we keep up our house is telling of who we are. This metaphorical house I speak of, even a dear friend recently noted that I was like “a mansion with many rooms” and I was honored and flattered and it got me to thinking what was in those rooms if they even existed. Yes, I decided. The rooms do exist and there are many treasures and many light things too, but to be clear, there are rooms that are darker, that have things that I have yet to sift through and those rooms are locked solid for the time being. Perhaps one day I will sort through. I will sort through and I will get rid of the junk and find the one jewel in the room – the crystal chandelier with the blue stones that glitters in the room. Maybe something wonderful like that, or my old, antique silver spoons with the handles that are engraved with the word “Happy.” Who knows. For now, I stand with this front, the paint slightly peeling, a grand old Victorian on the boardwalk.
I may not be much, but come inside and see that from any room, the view is like nowhere else, and it’s really the view you offer – the vantage points that can be seen from your land more than it is you yourself. I can tell you, from where I stand, the view is changeable, beautiful, forever twilight.