it’s probably the water at my new apartment

My emotions have been intense lately.  I wouldn’t describe what I’m going through as depression, and it hasn’t come with a lot of drama or yelling* or anger or anything.  No, I guess I’d describe my feelings as emboldened, and starting with capital letters.  I don’t just feel happy, I feel Happy!  When I’m nervous, I’m Nervous!  I’m not lonely, I’m Lonely.  When I’m bored, I’ve Never Been So Bored In My Life, Goddammit!

With the feelings that are less easily defined, I really wish I had some of those fancy German compound words** to describe them.  Why is there no English word for “Currently lonely, but happy to have social engagements planned for the near future”?  What’s the word for “Bored, but with the knowledge that there are any number of interesting things that could be done”?  What word can be used to describe an emotional bigness, the feeling that your heart might explode out of your chest, but you have no idea why?

Last week my friend Billy took me on an evening flight in a tiny, tiny airplane.  Everything’s more intense in a tiny airplane; you can hear all the noises, you can see everything around you, and when you land you can watch it all happen through the front windshield.

We took off from Austin at sunset, flew to Llano, and then flew back to Austin as the full moon was rising.  As we went over Lake Buchanan, Billy turned the radio down and we sat in silence, listening to the hum of the engine through our headphones as the moon reflected off the water.

What, then, is the word for the feeling that “This is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, except that can’t be right because I’ve seen lots of other beautiful things, and anyway, everything’s more intense in a tiny airplane”?

Why do I need words to describe everything?  And whence all the Feelings lately?  Given the choice, I suppose I wouldn’t trade them, as they make my life feel epic in a way that it really isn’t.  But I do still wonder where they’re coming from.

*Who would I yell at?  Everyone’s great!
**c.f. Schadenfreude, except I haven’t felt that one these days.

on uplifiting topics

We were lying in bed together in 2005, talking in both generalities and specifics about depression.  I talked about mine, he talked about his friend T’s, and then he told me about T’s suicide.

“Listen,” he said to me.  “No matter how depressed you get, please don’t kill yourself.  It’s the most selfish thing anyone can ever do.  T killed himself without thinking about how his friends and family would feel after he left.  I was so angry.  I’m still angry.  Don’t ever kill yourself.”

It was the first thing he said to me that made me wonder if we maybe weren’t right for each other.  It made me think he didn’t really understand the nature of depression.  It made me think, there is nobody on this earth who, when faced with the kind of depression that makes one want to commit suicide, would decide to stick around because they wouldn’t want their friends to think them selfish or because they thought suicide might mean that they’re a failure.

“Okay,” I said.  What else could I have said to my boyfriend?  The truth?

“The truth is that I’ve thought about suicide before.”

“The truth is that it’s technically impossible for me to give you a guarantee that I won’t ever kill myself.”

I’ve read The Broom of the System, half of Girl With Curious Hair, and about 1/50th of Infinite Jest, and I plan to try the latter again soon.  On the occasion of David Foster Wallace’s suicide, I’ve been reading the Metafilter thread about him.  Someone posted this, an excerpt from Infinte Jest:

The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.

He’s right, you know.  I understand why suicide feels like a selfish act to the loved ones who are left behind, but it isn’t.  Depression is a disease just like any other–its effects are no more a choice than the effects of other chronic illnesses, and its sufferers don’t relish the prospect of death.

I’m sorry to see you go, David Foster Wallace, but it’s okay with me if you’re not sorry.

Mr. Treehorn treats objects like women, man!

If any of you are Metafilter-readers or regular NPR listeners, you’ve probably heard about the Bechdel rule this week.  If you haven’t heard of the Bechdel rule, here it is, as written in Bechdel’s comic strip, “Dykes to Watch Out For.”

I only go to a movie if it satisfies three basic requirements: One, it has to have at least two women in it, who, two, talk to each other about three, something besides a man.

When I read this, I thought four things:

  1. Boy, lots of cool people are named Alison with one L.
  2. I bet that every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer follows the Bechdel rule.
  3. But Dr. Horrible definitely doesn’t.
  4. And I bet a lot of my favorite movies fail, too.

It should be noted here that I don’t think that the Bechdel rule should be seen as a hard-and-fast rule–rather, it’s something to make one think about how movies are made, and for what audience.  After all, there are quite a few very good movies that don’t follow this rule, and I’m sure there are some bad ones that do.  It just now occurred to me that a lot of hard-core porn films probably follow the Bechdel rule: the parts at the beginning where they talk about how the cable needs to be fixed, or the refrigerator just broke, or whatever.

Anyway.  Because I find this Bechdel rule very interesting, I’m going to test all the movies on my shelf at home:

The Big Lebowski: Fail.  Two women, Bunny Lebowski and Maude Lebowski, who never speak.

Election: Pass.  Tracy Flick and her mother talk about the election, and Tammy Metzler talks to her sort-of-girlfriend Lisa, though it doesn’t go very well.

Adaptation: Fail. Susan Orlean and Charlie and Donald’s respective love interests don’t talk to each other.

Far From Heaven: Pass.  Cathy and Eleanor talk about the party they host together.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Fail.  Clementine and Mary never meet.

High Fidelity: Uber-Fail.  It’s got lots of women, but they never talk to each other.  This movie fails for a lot of reasons.

Wayne’s World: Fail. Obviously.

The Royal Tenenbaums: Pass.  Margot and Etheline talk about Margot’s depression.

Donnie Darko: Pass. Sometimes Kitty doubts Mrs. Darko’s committment to Sparkle Motion.

Being John Malkovich: Pass-ish.  Lotte and Maxine talk to each other, but they talk about sleeping together while Lotte’s in John Malkovich, so I’m not sure it counts.  That movie’s hard to classify.

Shakespeare in Love: Pass.  Viola and her nurse talk about theatre.

Roxanne: Fail.  Roxanne and Dixie talk, but they talk about men.

Sideways: Fail.  We never see Stephanie and Maya talk to each other.

About Schmidt: Fail. Warren’s daughter and future mother-in-law never have a conversation.

Punch-Drunk Love: Fail. Barry’s sister and Lena talk, but they talk about Barry.

The Man Who Wasn’t There: Fail.  Doris Crane, Ann Nirdlinger, and Birdy never speak to each other.

Pollock: I never watch this movie because it’s too depressing, but I suspect a fail.

So that’s a 64% failure rate.  The point of this, of course, is to illustrate the fact that all too often, women in movies are seen through the eyes of men, or else they’re used as props to illustrate what the central male character is going through.  Rarely are they shown dealing with their own issues that are unrelated to men.

That’s why High Fidelity gets an uber-fail.  All the women in it are props for Rob Gordon to lean against or react to or use to deal with his own issues.  The girls he dumped are happy to see him and talk to him years later, and even when Laura’s dad dies, she chooses to deal with it by having sex with Rob, a plot point that always rang false for me.  I know that the way Rob relates to women is the central point of the movie, but the women in question could really use some help with their self-esteems.

Now that I think about it, the television shows I like follow the Bechdel rule much more often, sometimes even on an episode-by-episode basis.  Buffy, pass.  Veronica Mars, pass.  The Office, pass.  Gilmore Girls, pass.  Lost, pass.  30 Rock, pass.  Granted, most of these are shows with large ensemble casts, and with central issues unrelated to male-female relationships, so it’s easier for them to pass.  But neither Veronica nor Buffy nor the other female characters on those shows could be called props by any stretch.

I’m not sure that this indicates that television is better at fleshing out its female characters, but maybe it does.  Or maybe it’s just that my taste in TV shows runs toward those with female main characters, while my taste in movies runs toward those written and directed by quirky men (Anderson, Kaufman, the other Anderson, Payne, Coens, etc.) who usually write about male protagonists.  Or maybe it’s just that I’m more familiar with television than film.

But it does seem like television has more female writers, directors and show runners than movies have female writers and directors, doesn’t it?