Monday, 17 April 2017

I'm Older than I Was

Ph. by Natalie

As of yesterday, I am one year away from no longer being a teenager. I'm growing up and I've never hated anything more.

"Aries- Soon the fragility of your existence will hit you Aries and you will recede deep into your own mind, trying to cope with that." - Nightvale Horoscopes

Act I: The Mask

1. Last year I had completely denounced fashion week and fashion events in favour of being a pretentious asshole who a) thought all the shows sucked and b) found herself above trying to be a part of a crowd of smooches and posers who engaged everything superficially and could not form an original opinion. If you cringed more than once, I'm sorry.

This was after two-three years of trying to make it as a fashion girl a la Tavi here; going to parties, making connects ("aye, let's build, my G!"), and getting photographed. I spoke about masks earlier (here, specifically), and how once we don them we can become our real selves but after all that posturing and posing and trying too damn hard, I realised my face was the real mask and much of my life had become a performance. I pretended to enjoy going to Taboo and the apartments of older men with friends I hated so we could trot around in high heels and tiny tops and drink champagne. I pretended to enjoy talking to people who liked to kiss both my cheeks and rave about this collection and that launch all while looking through me for someone much cooler to whom they could attach themselves. I pretended that all these self-portraits I was collecting on this here Internet space was me looking through a mirror.

So I stopped. I looked at my blog and I cringed. I rolled my eyes at fashion show invitations. I grimaced and said "maybe some other time" when we could go to this club and see this rapper and this Instagram guy. But somewhere in between giving up the superficiality and trying to live a more earnest life, I'd just given up.

I'd taken off my mask and there was nothing behind it.

2. The year was 2016 and I lived by myself in a deceptive ennui where I swore I was conquering loneliness, falling in love, making lifelong friends and soaking up the self-love, self-care zeitgeist. I'm gonna call this stage maturity because it seemed to add up to everything that meant growing up and leaving my teenage forever. Like, wow, I had a real job and deadlines and lecturers and groceries to buy and lights that went out. I was in a real relationship were we spoke and changed tires and had wine at home. I even had debit orders for crying out loud.

Eighteen and all grown up, finally. The sad girl shit, the posturing, the posing-- the absolute high school-ness of it all was finally over. I was on the pursuit of happiness and light and my anxieties, fears and pain were going to disappear the moment I reached my destination.

Eighteen and I had it all figured out.

3. I did not have it all figured out.

Ph. by Zandi

Act II: High School Never Ends

There were at least three major events this year that made me realise high school never ends. The second was SA Fashion Week. I went for two out of three nights because I was meant to be in Cape Town the week after that. And when I say I was meant to be in Cape Town, I mean in more ways than pre-planned flights and The Internet performing at Jazz Fest.

In one moment, I was giggling with my friends and getting free drinks and then, in the next, outside myself wondering what it was that other people had that I didn't. And then I'd be forced back into myself, overly aware of this sudden hunger to be both a part and apart. I was Nick Caraway wandering New York, Chris Kraus driving cross country, the neighbourhood boys watching the Lisbon girls.

Once more, I was in grade eight realising my best friends didn't like me very much but still inviting them to my house. I was sixteen, quietly watching my first love with his girlfriend. Seventeen, in the corner of VIP trying to look like I was having fun while my friends did.

I'd naively thought I'd leave the bells, the math and extracurriculars for belonging.

I didn't and I won't. The rest of my life is going to be a hunt for belonging, to unequivocally, completely and wholly be within or without.

(And not both.)

Intermission.

"C: I feel so teenage. When you're living so intensely in your head you actually believe when something happens you've imagined, that you caused it. When Leonora OD'd on bad acid from my boyfriend Donald, he and Paul and I sat up all night in the park and made a pact that if Leonora wasn't out of Ward 16 tomorrow we'd kill ourselves. When you're living so intensely in your head there isn't any difference between what you imagine and what actually takes place. Therefore, you're both omnipotent and powerless.

S: You're saying teenagers aren't in their heads?

C: No, they're so far in that there's no difference between the inside of their heads and the world."

- I Love Dick by Chris Kraus (1997)

The first time this year that I realised high school never ends was when almost in the same moment my boyfriend broke up with me, I fell in love. Head over heels, school girl love. I stopped eating, I stopped sleeping and I couldn't stop working and writing. Suddenly, I was every part of myself because of this one person. I was nervous and unsure, awkward and clumsy and not the least bit shameful. Of course, that boy soon disappointed me and I was falling in a new way.

I'll never forget being lit by a Jasmine candle and the blues of my computer screen as John Legend crooned "let's call out names, names, I hate you more" and the dizziness and disorientation  felt exactly like my first kiss. The first time I cried this year it tasted like champagne, a Marlboro Gold Beyond and my musty, old carpet.

Two days later, I woke up tired and hungry
and the world didn't end.

Troy Bolton said "East High is having friends we'll keep for the rest of our lives," and I now realise that as much as high school never ends, neither does the magic. I know great sadness because I know great love, I know great loneliness because I know great friendship and I'm going to know a great life because I've died so many times.


Act III: "I want to own everything that happens to me now." - Chris Kraus

I'm never going to resolve anything because I'm always going to be going through it. Growing up means closure and alone-ness and I don't want any part of it. If "the loved person can become a holding pattern for all the tattered ends of memory, experience and thought you've ever had" (Kraus, again),  I want to dedicate myself to loving everything.

(Part of me's already rolled my eyes, finding ideas of "peace, love and light" juvenile and pathetic.) (Part of me thinks real life is all about the academics of it all - living it is tired, studying it is the key.) ("Transcendence!" the hotep shouts.)

All of me realises darkness exists, death and grief are living objects but just like anything teenage, it's all expressed in love and belief.


Growing up isn't the target, it never should be, but being alive and living is.

2 comments:

We can also talk about the overweight, grey cat I'm gonna name Atticus one day or how you're feeling.

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