Does My Oldness Make Me Pointless?
I blame myself for aging. Should I make some meaning or give up?
|Heather Havrilesky||Jun 4, 2019|| 22||1|
I rarely take the good advice of friends, so I thought maybe some bad advice might be more helpful. I've always preferred Serena over Samantha.
I will be 56 in 5 days. I raised two men who live on the other side of the country. For a long time they were my reason to live. I got divorced from their dad 10 years ago. We were college sweethearts who in time became more like brother and sister. He got remarried. I started honky-tonking and taking in ne’er do wells.
After ending a relationship with a restraining order for the second time, I see that I take better care of other people than I do myself. But the idea of taking care of myself does not spark joy.
Professionally, I've taken jobs that ostensibly do good, but end up being part of the crappy system of greed and oppression that permeate our culture. I apply for new jobs, but guess my Sell By date is expired. My friends say I should be content to have a secure steady job. I've got 10 more years before retirement at least. Is that too long to coast?
While I'm now an old lady, I seem to still be somewhat attractive to men and women. I notice that I spend a lot of time talking with friends about crushes -- who might like me, who do I like. Defining myself through a relationship is stupid, but I was raised on romantic comedy books and movies. For most of the 10 years since I've been divorced I've found fun in drinking beer and dancing at a local pub after work. It keeps me happy and active, but it seems like time for a change (due in part to the presence of the person I got a restraining order against). The replacement so far seems to be Youtube astrology / Tarot readings and writing to advice columnists.
I have never been depressed, but I am starting to know what depression feels like. When I had a kid or partner to take care of I had a goal: make the needy person happy. Now on my own since December, I can't find a sense of purpose. I recognize that I've ended up in relationships where I'm in the role of caregiver to feel like I'm doing something unselfish and productive with my life.
You are younger and haven't yet experienced the empty nest letdown after the initial giddy freedom of having grown kids. But since you give bad advice, that shouldn't really matter. Is there a way to just live, without a goal or purpose? I read Elie Wiesel and he seems to say no. Is getting back into a couple a legitimate goal or just foolishness? If Trump weren’t the president would the world still seem so messed up? Can online Tarot readings and pop psychology lead me to the answers?
Dear Meaning Less,
After reading your letter on the couch in Polly’s house (she’s buying me dinner tonight even though we have the same birthday), I was flipping through one of her lifestyle magazines and some self-important chef’s pull quote leapt out and danced in front of my fucking eyeballs: “I like to think of my cooking as a beautiful canvas to share the flavors of different cultures,” the chef said, probably with a straight face, to some magazine writer somewhere. He probably also managed to say these words out loud without rolling his eyes or spitting on the floor or immediately jumping off the nearest cliff. And what was the first beautiful canvas listed on those pages? A recipe for Labneh. Here’s how you make Labneh: You leave some fucking Greek yogurt on the counter overnight, until it gets all stupid and disgusting and rubbery, and then you throw some fucking oil and some fucking pomengranate seeds on top, and boom, you’re a culinary artist.
That’s how you wind up getting profiled in lifestyle magazines. You walk around saying shit like “I like to think of my cooking as a beautiful canvas.” Yeah, I like to think of my giant brain as the control center of the entire universe, from which I map out the path of the sun and the moon and the stars and also give you a big zit on your nose and make the bread on your next sandwich slightly soggy. I like to think of my dick as a magical missile that delivers a blinding blast of enlightenment and joy to womankind right before destroying that pussy. I like to think of my children as tiny soldiers who can attack on command, which is why I raised them to ignore all human voices except my own and also to bite the nearest human flesh upon being shown a photograph of Mark Zuckerberg. (They will also bite Mark Zuckerberg himself if they ever see him, which is why I live next door to him in Palo Alto.)
The point is, making meaning is as easy as making Labneh. You take the Greek yogurt of your most deluded, grandiose notions about yourself and salt it up with your aggressively greedy ego and your self-centered mythologies (like how you overcame adversity in junior high by getting contact lenses and parting your hair on a different side) and you leave that shit out overnight — night after night. Eventually, all of your self-obsession and vanity and defense mechanisms and wretchedly self-aggrandizing storytelling coalesce into a flexible, resilient, durable, rubbery glob of MEANING that you can take with you everywhere you go.
You can take it to your stupid pointless job, and even though your Meaning-Labneh is stinky and disgusting and all of your coworkers are like “What is that smell?” and “Have you guys seen the white shit on Gloria’s desk? What is that shit?” you’ll be like, “These mortals just don’t get it. They are too blinded by our culture’s capitalistic fixations to grok the groovy vibes I’m throwing down.”
You can take it to the pub and set it on the bar next to you while you drink beer, and even though the bartender will say, “Gloria, what the fuck?” you’ll just feel sorry for the bartender for being so unenlightened and closed off to the magic of the universe. And after five beers, you’ll see your ex who hangs out there and even though you have a restraining order against him, you’ll walk over and flap your Labneh right in his face and you’ll say “I like to think of this rubbery disk of decomposing yogurt as a kind of flexible frisbee of healing and wonder,” and then you’ll throw your frisbee at his face but you will miss and it will bounce off his crotch instead and he’ll take a restraining order out on you and you won’t be able to go to your favorite pub anymore because he’ll list that pub as his address because that’s how he is, unenlightened but shrewd like that.
Making your own homemade meaning is fun and cheap and easy, is the fucking point. I like to think of my own meaning-making as a kind of arts and crafts project of the soul, for idiots. Whatever I happen to need to believe on any given day, I just tell myself it’s true. “I’m a literal comedic genius who can write circles around every writer I know” I say as I open a brand new Word document. “I am the hottest human female alive. Man eyeballs sear off at the sight of me” I tell myself as I walk into a crowded bar. “I am the toast and the talk of the town,” I say to myself standing in line at the post office. “My empire will expand and my worshipful followers will flock and spread the good word of my rubbery genius mind and I will be beloved and envied forever and ever,” I say as I scrape my dog’s drippy poops off the sidewalk in front of the elementary school while all of the other parents cringe and wince because they remain unenlightened about my genius and my general greatness.
I like to see myself as a gift to humanity. I read Polly’s letters, from strangers who tell her that she helped to change their lives, and I weep tears of pity for her, that she takes that shit seriously. Because I’m the real gift. I’m the real life changer. My evil words bring joy to angry people hearts and also just depressed people hearts and drifty in-between-feeling people hearts, because no one has the stones to be evil anymore. And no I’m not alluding to some alt right reactive dipshitty nonsense, that’s you being an idiot again, like you like to. I am a dyed-in-the-wool commie, you fucking numbskull. I’m just saying people need more than the soggy gutless babbly first-person essays online and in bookstores, those boring boring stupid essays about the one time some drab dull shitty very bad writer overcame adversity in junior high by getting contact lenses and parting her fucking hair on a different side, those essays that segue immediately into how the Center For Parting Your Fucking Hair Differently says that choosing the wrong side to part your hair on is a real problem, a serious and real problem that is much more common than you might think. That is the type of shit that is everywhere, those types of words. Those tedious motherfuckers actually get paid to write that stuff! And they like to think of their writing as a beautiful canvas to share the flavors of their own assholes.
They are the saddest. Because I’m the one. And I also think it’s sad that Polly makes meaning from the rancid yogurt of her In box, because her meaning is delusional, while my meaning becomes realer and realer the more I let it sit out on the counter and sometimes by my bedside table and sometimes in my bed with me and my dogs and my husband, who is too slow and simple to quite grok how divine and wretchedly clever and smoking hot I am, the best human, the best person, with the ultimate frisbee of meaning at my disposal.
So. Is fucking someone new and thinking of your love as a beautiful canvas foolish? Are Tarot readings foolish? Is YouTube astrology foolish? Are you a fool? Of course, of course, of course, but also? No way, never, not even a tiny bit. You are the meaning maker. Your age has exactly nothing to do with anything, ever. Make the most hardy, fetid disk of self-delusion in the known universe from the sour milk of your own mediocrity. Savor the flying, fantastical, flexible, self-fellating fuck out of it. Because that’s all there is. That is ALL. THERE. IS.
Need some even shittier advice than that? Write to askmolly at protonmail right now.