124. weltschmerz


This is not a word of the day, and frankly, I don’t care very much if it is or is not. I’m frankly tired of the self-imposed rules and standards I weigh myself down under.

Here’s my Word Of The Day, and it’s pretty apropos at that:

Weltschmerz, noun: 1. Mental depression or apathy caused by comparison of the actual state of the world with an ideal state. 2. A mood of sentimental sadness.

This is the word that sums up my mood.

Last night I watched the independent British film Weekend, with Tom Cullen and Chris New, about two guys who hook up at a bar and then try and decide if what they have is something more serious. It’s a totally non-traditional romantic drama in about every sense of the word; and very raw, in a way that will shock most Americans. There’s a scene towards the end where they make a wry joke about, “Is this our Notting Hill moment?” They both admit that they’ve never seen it, but figure that that particular moment is when someone comes running up in the rain to make a romantic declaration and everything gets wrapped up nicely.

Which it does not.

Which is a bit more like real life.

In real life, women get crushed by bulldozers. Tibetan nuns burn to death protesting brutal Chinese occupation. Children are molested by middle school teachers. There is no third act, no climax, no catastrophe leading to dénouement.

Freytag works great for describing what’s on paper—not so great off. Life is a bit too unpredictable, and most of the bits in between the exciting bits very boring.

How is a raven like a writing desk? They produce very few notes, and all of them flat.

Raised in American culture, in a media saturated with happy stories, we have these presupposed ideas about how life is supposed to go; and romantic dramas/comedies all start just before the big relationship of the protagonist’s life is about to begin. And we all seem to live in that place for whatever reason, our life stories written for us by the big Hollywood studios that bring us (and our dollars) back to the multiplexes and the Netflix instant queues again and again, like addicts looking for a fix of comfort and security of the hope that maybe—just maybe—life doesn’t suck as much as we secretly think it might.

There’s a bit from an Okkervil River song (“Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe”) that goes:

No fade in: film begins on a kid in the big city. And no cut to a costly parade (that’s for him only!). No dissolve to a sliver of grey (that’s his new lady!) where she glows just like grain on the flickering pane of some great movie.

In life, we don’t matter. We are all the protagonists of our own stories, but no one else is watching. We are the lone author and audience. Everyone else is just extras, with a few people getting speaking parts and supporting roles. And we are the extras and supporting players in other protagonists’ stories.

For me, a gay man, I don’t have stories playing for me up on the alluring cinema screen. Those are stories for the straights, for the people whose lives have been written out for them if they choose to pick up that volume. I spent most of my formative years pretending that I wasn’t attracted to the other boys. This isn’t my era. The young people of my era are coming out now when they’re seven or eight. They’ll flirt with other young boys when you’re supposed to be learning how to flirt. Some of them will get hell, but in this changing climate most of them probably won’t.

I’ll never learn how to flirt, how not to not pretend that I’m attracted to a guy; to openly stare across a room at someone.

A few moments ago this guy who lives about a mile away asked me if I wanted to come over and cuddle. I don’t know if he meant any more or just that. As nice as that would be, to have someone, I don’t want just someone. Right now, I want to cuddle with a guy who knows me, who knows just by looking that I’m feeling bad and insecure and crazy. I’m so tired of being crazy and lonely because I’m crazy and can’t carry on a normal relationship with another human being because I’m broken because (cliché cliché) my parents fucked me as a child. (Not literally. Figuratively.)

But life doesn’t sort itself out into three neat little acts: exposition, introduction, dramatic premise, situation, inciting incident; conflict, obstacle, antagonist, low point; climax, falling action, equilibrium, resolution. Doesn’t work that way.

I need to be found. Not by some god, which is what they always told me I needed. I’m tired of other people telling me what I need, even though I don’t even know what it is I need.

I need to be found by someone.

But that probably won’t happen.

And don’t tell me that I just have to wait and be patient. The people who sell you that line are the people who got lucky, who didn’t have to wait, or who are on the other side. The other side always looks rosier once you’ve made it past the thorns, which seems to be the whole tenor of my life. The promise of roses, the potential for roses, but just thistles.

It’d be great if my life were a movie, but it doesn’t work like that.

In real life, the guy gets on the train and leaves for two years, and we never know if he comes back. No earnest, soggy, moor-top confessions of love. No last-minute interventions from a benevolent, sentimental author. No hero overcoming all obstacles in spite of impossible odds for sake of paramour. No convenient character arcs.

Our life is not a movie. No ‘maybe’ about it.

2 thoughts on “124. weltschmerz

  1. Randi Jo Brist

    You can take this or disregard it, either way, this is an honest opinion from someone who has also frequently been disillusioned and cynical about love:

    It seems to me that romantic and religious crises of faith tend to come in pairs. I don’t know about you, but I was raised to think that there was one “right” person out there for me, and as long as I prayed and obeyed and ate all my vegetables, they would come along when I least expected it–and while I was completely occupied with Jesus. I did believe that for a while…until about six years ago when I first had my heartbroken, and realized that I had actually fabricated a destiny for myself. I was wrong. God hadn’t meant that person for me. After that, I had a hard time trusting in God at all. For a long time I associated that lack of faith in God with a lack of faith in romance. And if I wasn’t “fated” to be with someone, I couldn’t see it happening at all. But now I think that faith and fate has little to do with it. Finding fulfilling romance is a just a combination of luck, persistence, planning, and hard work I think. And when you are an unusual person, it’s statistically hard to find someone else who’s also unusual in a compatible way.

    I think that you are an extremely unique person. Say what you will about only “mattering” to yourself, but I think one of the reasons you feel alienated is because of your very unique-ness. Statistically there are less people that will be a “fit” for you because of that. You’re not a simple guy, therefore you are unlikely to be fulfilled by other simple guys. Your mind and experiences do not squeeze comfortably into any of the usual boxes. In light of this, it’s easy to assume that no one you actually want will want you back.

    However, you have more than a unique quality of mind, you have charisma. You’re also an addicting person to spend time with. Despite your self-admitted emotional baggage, I would be very surprised if a mature guy who was actually at your intellectual level couldn’t overlook that in light of your other fascinating qualities.

    Realistically, you’ve only been actively seeking romance with other guys for the last few years, so you haven’t been exposed to as many potential partners as other people have at your age.

    Because of these things, I think it’s likely that you will be snapped up sometime in the next couple of years. And sure, a real romance is unlikely to unfold like a movie script, but that doesn’t mean it won’t make you happy when it does come.

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