"I couldn't be friends with someone who didn't despise himself, at least a little."
Richard used to say that. I'm calling him 'Richard' now, exclusively. It's a little confusing, when I say something like, 'Richard and I used to go there..." or, "When Richard and I were in London..." in a way that's not at all bitter.
In retrospect, maybe it was a red flag, his love for the self-loathing. Hind-sight, as they say, is 20/20. But then, I don't even know what my real prescription is, only that the left eye is so much worse than the right that when anyone tries on my glasses they always scream and make a big deal out of it. In fact, whenever anyone wants to try them on (which they do, a lot, because the frames are so huge) I have to institute the condition, "only if you promise not to scream about how bad my eyes are. It's the contrast between the two that's so dramatic." And then they agree, but they always exclaim anyway. I guess it must be fairly dramatic. I don't know. I have no head for numbers.
I also don't like loaning my glasses out because the lenses are generally filthy. I don't know why; it seems to me I rub them on my skirt about twenty times a day. Richard said I touch the glass when I push them up the bridge of my nose, and I suppose my fingers tend to have a lot of butter on them, just as my buttons are always loose and my blouses stained and my heels worn and my shoes scuffed within hours of buying them. I've learned not to bother buying myself anything really good; the violence of my possession is very democratic. I can destroy a $500 dress as easily as I can something cheap from a teen store, and with remarkable dispatch. I have a certain tendency to throw things onto the floor, even if they're brand new and very fine. That's no comment on the garments; somehow I need to degrade things in order to feel comfortable with them, I suppose. It's not just clothes, either: books are grubby and tattered; CDs scratched beyond recognition, if not cracked;jewelry broken; any manicure is destroyed within moments. This last is mostly beacuse I need to root around in my purse quite a bit to find anything, and that's sort of the epicenter of the chaos, a sort of morass of junk and papers which is all covered with a mysterious and uniform layer of grime. "An ancient steak, a cactus, and a parliament of fowls," Richard would say.
Ar first people are amused by the chaos of my purse and the execrable condition of bills in my wallet, but I hate it about myself. It's impossible to fight the chaos; it's my natural state; but it's hard to live with, really. When I saw the therapist, she said it was to compensate for the rigid control I imposed on the rest of my life, the wages of being a "people pleaser," which left my muscles bunched with tension, my head pounding, and my body aching with exhaustion every night. I liked that theory, but as I was pretty sure she was an idiot, and had a lot of Joy-of-Sex style women's tomes in her waiting room, I didn't take it much to heart.
I always suspected that the therapist thought I was sexually repressed, and that this was the great issue. She also worried about my self-image.
"Well," I told her early on, "I guess if I had to put it into words, I think of myself as being like a dwarf. A hunchbacked dwarf. Syphilitic, with one of those silver noses."
"Well, most of these people are extremely conventional and not very smart," said my father afterwards. "Did you try to make her laugh?"
I said I had.
"I always did that, too. Once I sang the lyrics "Dog food is the king" to the tune of "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes." We are not a family that is easily understood."