Wednesday, 27 December 2017

twelve questions

One of the many good things about the old days of blogging was the memes and quizzes that did the rounds. Those, and the fact that there was a rounds to do. That was a wonderful thing about the olden days. Almost made it worthwhile having to struggle through life with just two channels on the TV and people smoking on the tram. Why hasn't the blogosphere renaissance begun? Do your blog again, please: don't waste any more of your sweetness on the desert air.

Recently I came across this article: The 36 questions that lead to love. Assuming you can't be bothered clicking the link to read it for yourself, it's a list of questions that allegedly a pair who've just met can ask each other which will supposedly cause them to.....wait for it....know a little more about each other than they did before, and therefore, fall in love. The first thing that needs to be said is that the underlying premise is truly horrific: think of the most recent person who you met for the first time, and now think about what it would be like to be inveigled into falling in love with her or him.


The 36 questions on the list are the exact type that used to do the rounds in the blog memes, which as far as I am aware did not cause bloggers to fall in love with each other. (The opposite, if anything.) The reasoning is like Cher's in Clueless: Sometimes you have to show a little skin, this reminds boys of being naked, and then they think of sex! Correct me if I'm wrong but baring your soul does not make other people to fall in love with you. If this were at all true my shrink would have given me her credit card number by now, instead of the other way around.

Well, I'm going to put the questions to another use. I have been experimenting for while now with writing something which isn't so nakedly my own life - fiction - and it's not going badly, but not great either. Everything I've written has started with a memory - an event and an emotion. Some are coming out convincing and others not, that's OK. The challenge is achieving a consistency in the degree of working-over: elaboration and therefore distance/perspective. I think I need a constraint to help me find a method, which will I hope help me to find a style. I find I'm able to generate things that say what I want them to say but stringing them together is proving incredibly difficult. Some bits are undigested and others are very worked, and the transitions are impossible. I did try plotting first then filling it out, and golly, I felt incredibly sickened and disgusted by myself. So I thought of these questions and how I could use them. Worth a try.

There is a distinctly sciencey flavour to the article which I very much appreciate. You get this vibe when the proposition is something that feels like it should be true, or something that is generally wanted to be true, but at the same time it is felt that evidence is required. It reminds me of when literary critics used to pretend that reading the canon would make you a more moral, enlightened, better human being: seems super obvious right, but on the other hand, is delightfully easy to disprove, usually by just spending two or three minutes reflecting on the personal life and professional behaviour of the critic making the allegation. (Just before I was standing in the hallway, where most of my books are, and my eye fell on a shelf entirely full of books entirely full of pernicious nonsense like that, and I thought, I should get rid of those, I'm never going to need them again. [Not that I ever needed them to begin with]. I did not get rid of them then and there, however. Instead I looked down at the floor, which I saw needed sweeping, and at my toenails, which I saw needed painting, and I decided to paint them olive green to go with a dress I had earlier on been vaguely thinking about making, from a piece of fabric I bought in July 2016, so I got on my bike and rode to the chemist on Sydney Road, but they had no olive green nail polish at all so my plans were thwarted. When I went outside again to untie my bicycle a man looked at me strangely and two women looked at me normally. I looked back at all of them, normally I hope, but probably strangely because of the man. On the way home a different man driving a golden car honked at me to get out of his way; I have read many, many canonical works of literature but still, I rode a little slower and twisted round and gave him a friendly smile and the middle finger. One of the canonical works of literature I have read and have thought about quite a lot recently is Wordsworth's Prelude and its spots of time; is that conception of the relationship between memory and art still viable when our lives are so dominated by imagery and experiences that are unromantic in the extreme? I wish I had the mental vigour, and the time, and the space, to think properly about these things. Instead I think about picking things up off the floor, and nail polish, and I also spend a worrying amount of time in Mr Collins mode, thinking up things to say to other human beings so they will like and accept me. Because I am a woman I also spend a great deal of time thinking, all this would be so much easier if I was thinner.  Well, I made it home from the chemist without further incident, then some other things of no importance happened, and, so, here we are.)

First twelve questions.

1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
Already I run into difficulties. I know nobody much likes having to make choices and decisions, especially where who(m) out of everyone in the world to have dinner with is concerned, but this is just too hard; the sense that the one choice you make is excluding all the other amazing possibilities, coupled with the knowledge, born of a life's experience, that nobody ever lives up to this level of expectation - and if they do, dinner is eventually over, and then you're alone again.....forever. May as well just eat dinner alone in the first place. At least you can order what you like. Bring a book.

2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?
I would not like to be famous and I think it's interesting that Part II of the question assumes that the answer to Part I is Yes

3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
Yes in the trivial sense that I often do a general mental run-through of what I'm going to say. Almost all the phone conversations I have nowadays are about practical things and usually with people I know slightly if at all. I don't remember the last time I had a friendly meandering chat on the phone. All of that type of interaction has shifted to text. And I am ashamed to say I very regularly mentally rehearse what I'm going to say via text. This is because it feels very difficult to control the message in the overly-stripped-back medium of text and also very important to try.

4. What would constitute a "perfect" day for you? 
No work, warm air, bright light, trees, elevated setting, feeling great physically, mildly drunk, long intermittent conversation, plenty of leisurely sex. Basically the Lou Reed song but nowhere near New York which is a completely horrible city. Totally achievable, and even kind of modest surely. Not something I would want to do all the time, because there is no place in a day like this for my child, and I need there to be a place in almost all my days for him. But I don't expect those days to be perfect.

5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
about two hours ago Leonard and I were colouring in and singing together. I sing lots.

6. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
How is this even a question? Body of a 30-year-old, thanks (although technically my body at 45 is an improvement on what it was like at 30), mind continuing to acquire depth and experience. Why would anyone want it the other way around? So the bike shop dude who was the last person I met, him who featured in the table above: he would probably choose the ageing body with bonus arrested psychological development.

7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
If I did and I wrote it down it would not be a secret hunch any more. I expect to die peacefully and painlessly in my very old age. This is consistent with the immensely entitled and egocentric life that I have lived. It hasn't been sheltered or free from trauma, but somehow it's conspired to make it very difficult for me to imagine and indeed accept not getting things I want and feel that I deserve. If death doesn't kill me it will only make me stronger!

8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
So if I was doing this exercise with bike shop dude: 1) we both appear to be alive 2) we appear to both be white 3) we appear to both be standing in Ray's Bikes in Brunswick

9. For what in your life do you feel the most grateful?
For what in my life do I feel the - most - grateful? This is a trick question. There are things that I value, that I treasure, that I would be bereft without, that I would readily identify as the most essential and definitive aspects of myself and of my life, that in all sincerity I can't feel grateful about, because I don't think anyone else gave them to me or did them for me. That's privilege talking, of course. Doesn't make it any less of a gut feeling for me. And then there are relationships, which as they become more and more important also become more and more reciprocal, until a point arrives when speaking of gratitude implies a kind of pathological doormat-ism. And then, there are a couple of very dramatic hinge-points in my life where individuals stepped in and saved me. I most certainly do feel overwhelmed with gratitude for these things, but only when I think about them. And I don't think about them that often. I can't.

10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
Much more talking about feelings at home. With my therapist's help I have identified certain things about my upbringing that continue to inflect the ways I relate to other people but if it was possible t change the negative elements of this history I don't know that I would want to, because I can't imagine what I'd be like. And then, in a sense, it is possible to change everything about the way you describe your childhood to yourself and understand it, and I have certainly done extensive work in this line.

11. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.

12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
The ability to go without sleep altogether.


naomi said...

I wonder if you did these questions with someone you had already fallen in love with, if they would deepen your relationship, or if they would expose huge chasms in values and attitudes that would break the spell of the being in love you have and cause it to end?

I'm not prepared to ask my love. Our first questions were "how's your separation going?" "What's it like having a transgender dad?" And the clincher, "is there anything you don't eat?" He answered that one incorrectly, because he said he wasn't at all fussy and eats anything and he actually is really fussy and will hardly eat a thing. We really are in love though.

lucy tartan said...

I very much doubt these questions would have any predictable effect on a relationship of any kind. "Is there anything you don't eat" lol