Tuesday, 7 July 2009
Worth Worrying About?
It's my birthday soon and I am wondering whether and to what extent I should be worried about it. I am generally quite low key about birthdays. Perhaps this comes from being a twin. I have never seen it as my own, as a day just about me. Without want to invoke too much pity, add being a middle child and having (wonderful, kind but/and) unfussy, undemonstrative, cerebral parents to the birthday conditions I was working with. To be fair, there was a presents-in-bed-before-school ritual in my family until we were around ten. For the next decade or until we moved out, birthdays were essentially about being able to choose the brand of take-away for dinner (even on a week night!), take-away being a real treat for us kiddies. But I always had to share this decision. Plus, I knew the greasy feast was going to be shared with a bunch of other hungry attention-seekers, who would rip those chicken wings apart well before any formal acknowledgement of a birthday.
But this year's birthday heralds the start of a new decade for me - can you guess which? - and coincides with the final months (or so) of my thesis, and uncertainty about how exactly I will kick-start my academic career next year and where then I will be living. If I wanted to, if I really wanted to amp up the anxiety levels, I could also make this birthday a deadline of sorts for deciding whether I will ever use my womb and if so when (and why? Is 'why?' relevant?).
I am consciously watching myself come up with these thoughts to see whether they trigger anything within me. I feel like a child with a bug catcher rather than an aeroplane passenger floundering in the sea. But, I could send myself in a minor spin about them if I wanted to. I am wondering whether I should or not. The possibilities for a bit of internal mayhem were opened up further by a viewing of 'A Street Car Named Desire' (1951) on DVD on Sunday night.
Have you seen that movie? It is one angry, intense, brilliant movie. It had been on my 'To Watch' list for ages, but I had no idea it was going to be quite so forceful. Amongst and overlapping with the dominant themes of gender, violence, clashing cultures, illusion and reality (and mental health), one aspect of Blanche DuBois' character (pictured above) resonated with me: her fear of ageing and her desire to be elevated from mortality through, for her, aesthetics, chivalry, poetic language, beautiful artefacts and role-playing. Reading up on Vivien Leigh after the film (the actress who played Blanche, and also Scarlett O'Hara) did not provide any relief. Sadly, she suffered from bipolar disorder and recurring TB (which led to her death at a fairly young age) and seems to have been, like Blanche, haunted by her earthly vanity and impermanence.
Unless hiding away, doing a thesis in Oxford 'the bubble' England counts (?), I am no Blanche. But that small, concentrated part of Blanche, her temporality and her awareness of her temporality, struck me.
What does all this mean? Is this upcoming birthday actually affecting me? Does it mean I am finally old? Should I be worried about the fact that I may be in fact deeply worried? Or does it simply mean that I am a typical, melodramatic DPhil student? Should I bother obsessing about the onset of this new decade and take stock of my life in a chest-grabbing way or should I just get on with my thesis for now and spend the day having a nice time with friends over some good food, pretty drinks and dancing as planned?
I initially intended to mold this birthday musing into a light-hearted post, where you guys could then feel encouraged to giving me humorous tips for things I should do before or after I enter this new decade or cute ways of thinking about DEATH. So if you can somehow twist this post around so you can do this, please do so. I wouldn't even mind a bit of old-school, no-nonsense shaming. If not, hardcore Hamlet-holding-Yorick's-skull-style responses welcome. Thank you and have a good day.