Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Life Without Salt

Several people in the past few weeks have told me that I am emotional.  

I hasten to point out that this didn't upset me, but it did give me pause. 

What was their tone, you ask?  Good question. They were neither critical nor favorably impressed. It was like, "You're a remarkably emotional person. That must hurt!" As if they had seen their first basselope, and weren't sure what to make of it.  

It was a writers' workshop, they were writerly types, and I had just explained the very moving and complex plot of my novel while weeping intermittently for 25 minutes. 

Apparently, normal people with normal feelings have to rest between emotional exertions.  

It was a big fail. Just like the time I tried to read my short story about my dead dog. Someone had to finish reading it while I went off to a corner and blubbered. 

So my plot was too thick and flavorful. What to do? 

I went home and binged on Wentworth, a gritty drama about women in prison. Somewhere between my fourth and fifth episode, I thought, I'll bet the people in my writer's workshop are not big fans of Wentworth. Or Orange is the New Black. Or even, probably, Vikings. But I can't be the ONLY one who watches gritty shows. There must be others who enjoy this white-knuckle, shirt-rending series. It is commercially viable. 

This cheered me immeasurably.  

I had never heard the term "cozy mystery" before that writers workshop. (I don't get out much.) Agatha Christie wrote cozy mysteries. They are not emotionally charged. The murder is never particularly stirring or poignant, more a starting point for a game of intrigue.  I have never been much into Agatha Christie.  I want more sturm und drang. Tell me something I didn't know about the human condition.

Yes, I admit it: I am emotional. It rarely clouds my judgment, except when it does. I am not as emotionally intelligent as I sometimes need to be. There are some people who have gotten the short end of the stick. To them, I say, Yes, I made a mess of things. I am sorry. I was overwrought. #Itsacoldfishthatisneverafooloranass 

I don't have tattoos, but I would not mind having one--not because I don't think I might possibly regret having it, but because I probably would regret having it. I wouldn't mind having that on my body: Evidence that here is a person who may regret what she has done, but she is not wondering what might have been if she had no regrets.

But I don't have a tattoo. I don't need one: I have red hair. 

Despite the public's bizarre attributions to people with red hair (mainly, that we're emotional) when not in the presence of greatness, or tragedy, or anything that makes me particularly love mankind, I'm generally pretty laid back.  

Offend my sense of fair play, however, and I turn into a green avenger with ill-fitting pants. 

Anger burns away the cobwebs, illuminates the dark recesses of my mind, sharpens me right up. I should be a lawyer. You'd want me on your side. I make some very good points. 

When my hair was  short, assertive, and sexually ambiguous, no one called me emotional. Now that it is long, feminine, romantic and tearful, the public conveys a new vibe: You are emotional!

To which I say, Tell me something I didn't know about the human condition.

I laugh at my mother for weeping as she reads the morning paper. Alone, I weep, as well. 

Plenty of times I've muscled my way through private emotions to keep a public face, and failed. 

I recognize, in my grandmother's lovable letters to her parents, the sound of our common, needy, obsessive chord (with the pitch-perfect ear of someone who is emotional). My grandmother's fragile self esteem, her awareness of her talent and proximity to disappointment; the constancy of her hopes and dreams...We bear a striking resemblance.  

But Clare had more gratitude. She worked harder to make everything just so. She suffered more disappointments. She rarely felt as free. 

If I were less emotional, would I be wiser, calmer, less impulsive, less effective, less interesting, less damaging, less self-absorbed?  


If I could change my stripes and be unemotional in spots, would I?

No. No way! Why would I want to eat for the rest of my life without salt?

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