Grab a barf bag—we are going to talk feelings. You know, the thing men and women fake to get in and out of coitus, respectively.
Girlfriend: “My Grandma is unwell and I am really worried.”
Me: “Well my Grandma’s dead, and I am not making a big fuss.”
Humor. Feeling’s birth control pill.
Growing up in a culture that substitutes feelings with sentiment the way it substitutes pent-up sexual energy with prayer meant I was destined to dig through a psyche-load of shit before getting to how I actually felt about anything.
So, I substituted kindness with humor; love with seriousness, and hate with writing. You know, the way men and women substitute their individuality with uniformity through a bizarre and unimaginative tradition called marriage so they can spend their lives sticking to each other like wet papery moths on the edges of broken glass.
Yeah, buckle up.
Behind the humor was the doggedness for self-improvement, behind which was the need to look good, behind which was the fear of looking weak, behind which was the fear of crying, behind which was the fear of being called a poof.
In the universe of feelings, you are either Mr. Spock or Sylvia Plath—trigger warning—man and woman, respectively. If you didn’t get either reference, think of a blisteringly beautiful woman who wrote poems with the debris of her soul, and then, for Spock, think of like any man. While we are at that, how is it that Sylvia put her head in a microwave, as a cure to writer’s block I am guessing, but it’s Spock that looks like his head has been through the poultry setting?
Feelings have been reduced to a duality. Man or woman. Thinker or feeler. Love or Fear (or marriage).
Women are better at everything is a popular sentiment. And any man who says that is just looking to get laid. Vapid motivational assertions are not how we rewrite history. But they have become the mainstay of our discourse.
Feelings have turned into a measure: “How happy are you today, on a scale of 1-5, 5 being I am on molly and 1, I am married?” while sentiments, the things with which you mask your feelings (mostly horniness), have become the place where we search for meaning.
It’s scary when something unreal begins to shape reality. Sentiments make your feelings fall into a routine. Like sex after marriage. Okay, I will relax about the marriage thing. And move on to social media.
Social media. The pornography for your feelings.
It has politicized feelings and left us all swimming in a sewer of reactions. Put your feelings through the filter of approval and out comes a glossy picture unblemished of fear, anger, and insecurity. It’s how we’ve ended up at a place where being sad is thought deep. Where we manipulate the filters to make our scars look sexy. Where we will pay a company 8$ every month to circumcise our brain and validate our continuance. Where who you are is a function of who you are not. What a cosmetic con job, this game of sharing your feelings. When what you are really sharing is how you ought to be feeling.
Feelings are contradictions. It’s why they are both complex and confusing. Love and fear. The masculine and the feminine. Married, yet indivisible; individual. How can you think deeply without also feeling deeply?
Sentiments substitute emotions with intellect. Solitude with permission. Contradiction with conformity. And feelings with perfection. Behind the masks of sentiment you wear to give shape to perception, your several manipulations of perfection, what really shapes you is your ability to feel for things, big and small, living and dead in the entirety of their contradictions.
They were both not very different, Sylvia and Spock. They were both agonizingly true to their feelings. Listening deeply to what they felt instead of what they ought to feel. They sure expressed it differently, but they felt as deeply if not closely. Even when they felt nothing, they felt it completely. This is what it means to be really alone. The contradiction in becoming full with emptiness. And empty with fullness.
You may be alone in your expression, but it’s how you risk being alive. Remove the blindfold around your heart and allow it to yearn for the things it cannot name.