I’ve been thinking lately about how restaurant industry people have a terrible reputation, both in terms of general attitude and propensity to party. I have been thinking about it because every time I tell my bar coworkers stories about my ‘creative’ friends, they’re like ….what the actual fuck. Who are these people.
After the retelling of a particularly harrowing interpersonal tale, my old British bartender Phil just looks at me and says: “That guy is crazy.” He said more but I’ll refrain so you will have no idea which of the men I interact with my beloved bartender referred to as crazy. It was funny in the moment, but it was also a little shocking—not because calling someone crazy is such an egregious insult, of course it isn’t, it’s just that he was so quickly able to read a situation that I’d been through and yet was still having trouble parsing. I don’t even know that I think the situation or person in question IS crazy, at least more so than I myself am insane.
I appreciate the cold reads that my industry people have on all the other people I know, because I’m not so good at assessing people clinically. I think about how I feel around them, I think about what we talk about and what they say to me and I analyze the way they interact with the world, but I generally don’t get judgmental until someone has crossed a certain threshold of poor behavior. That threshold is, uh, a bit farther along on the spectrum than is perhaps healthy for me.
I’ve been worried lately that I’m not really getting anything out of therapy, and every time I have that thought I end up in a conversation with a friend who tells me something that is more insightful and better advice than my therapist has ever given me. But I love my therapist! But back to friends:
“I know this means fundamentally changing who you are as a person, but I need you to get better at protecting yourself.”
I can’t disagree. There’s a time in my life when I would have gone on a discourse about how being open and vulnerable is good and tenderness and the way of grace, but I don’t want to do that anymore. It’s not that I necessarily think it’s false, I just don’t know and I don’t want to invest my energy in having a specific systemic belief about how best to interact with people and the world.
She’s a better person than me, my friend. When I tell her stories of people who upset me, she’s sympathetic but she tries to get me to understand their side of the story in a way that is illuminating without negating my pain. She tries to get me away from the people who are forces for destruction. And she’s mean! I love it. A few months ago she said to me, “My opinion of you lowers every time you talk about him, to see you so hung up on someone who doesn’t deserve your respect makes me question the person I believe you to be.” It was so harsh but it was so important. I get so caught up, I need someone to tell me what it looks like from the outside.
I was complaining yesterday about how annoying it is to have so many friends who pay attention to my social media shitposting, particularly on twitter, because it makes me censor myself in a way that I never had to bother to do on that particular platform, or when writing in a personal blog. Trying to write about your life knowing that others will read it can bring a transcendent level of understanding to a situation, but I've had to accept in the past, say, two years, that there are hard limits that I won't, can't cross. I value loyalty more than transparency. But still, I think about the way I wrote about my interactions with Californian, what, three years ago? Knowing he would never google me, and knowing that writing about my feelings towards him had no impact on his life. I miss that freedom.
Theoretically I could say his name now, there’s no way anyone will ever find him. He’s so incredibly offline, which is strange for me now that everyone I interact with is so very very logged on—but it was strange at the time too. I’m going to refrain from making any sort of commentary on whether it’s ‘good’ or ‘bad’ that there’s this meta-universe of social media now, because it just exists. I never want to hear another diatribe on it, it’s just pointless.
But yes, it felt odd even at the time that he was so untethered to anything I could trace. That being said, I’ll still refer to him as the Californian—I respect his privacy of course, and it’s a fun Jonathan Franzen joke, and it’s the past. It’s relevant in that it’s my history, but I no longer think of him as a named recurring character. That gun has gone off too many times. There’s a point where you have to accept that the enrichment someone offered your life, and vice versa, is over. The way we dragged it out was not necessarily damaging, it just reached the point where it was silly. I’d be snapping him pictures of my boobs while working on a book review. He’d ask me to retell things that happened two fucking years ago. There are only so many stories.
I remember earlier this year when I first started really hanging out with other writers frequently, I would get anxious at the outset, but once I started talking to people it was always very easy and I wouldn’t get stressed, it was just like a parade of potential. I always wanted to feel more comfortable and know more than say, one face in a room, but now that I know many faces in many rooms it comes with it’s own set of difficulties.
It’s the context that builds when you see the same people everywhere, I guess. And I love that context, it’s the stone of any social experience, but it’s hard. There’s so many things to be mindful of, and I don’t want to be paying attention constantly.
And yet insofar as I complain about the emotional toll of the context, the prospect of entanglements, romantic or platonic, without any context becomes increasingly meaningless and boring to me. There’s a guy who I was seeing for a little while in the summer who’s attempting to reappear, texting me a few times a week seeing if I’m around, and I have no ill will against him, I’ll probably put aside my malaise and get it together to see him soon, but the fact that he just exists as an amoeba with no connection to the rest of my life makes him seem boring, not attractive.
I think my younger self would laugh in my face at the way I complain about the men who pursue me. She had been pursued never so didn’t have any conception of how it can be so meaningless and frustrating when it’s not coming from a source that you value. I still have so much sympathy for young me since her and I still share so many of the same questions about the habits of the general population, which I still feel very separate from.
I was at a friend’s house the other night after we were out at the bars and she brought a guy I’ve expressed interest in before. There weren’t many of us there, and he and I paired off fairly quickly with the usual flirty touching and whatever, eye contact. It was so easy, and not stressful. I used to spend so much time questioning whether or not men were attracted to me, and it’s strange to not really have to do that anymore. Of course, in that problem’s place all the other problems with trying to create intimate connection between two lives full of their own context arise. And back again to: problems one can’t write about publicly.
Last year around this time I was joking with one of my old professor homies because she posted an article about a certain area of study and I sent her one on the same area of study by someone I was sleeping with. I told her as much—people always think it’s weird when i say things like this, but my professors were, are, my friends. And c’mon, it’s funny! When I said “too much information?” She said, “All information is good information.”
The more time that passes the more I believe this. You’re entitled to having a base of knowledge about a situation before you involve yourself in it, so you can decide if you want to proceed. As a not very private person I know it could seem irrelevant or self serving for me to say that, but I think it’s actually a separate issue to your own standards of modesty. If you’re asking other people to be even minority involved in your life, they deserve the basic knowledge of what that does or doesn’t mean. The only way to attain an equal playing field is through the transmission of information.
So yes, I personally believe that means freely offering the information that people you're choosing to interact with need in order to make decisions. Women have been trained to shield so much about ourselves, and the women’s work I love the most is the work that removes that shield and works to display the context that makes up a story and a life artfully and with grace, no matter what the content itself is.
Sometimes when I read a book like this I end up so engaged that I start to feel in the mindset of the author, and have to remind myself of the differences. I just read How to Murder Your Life, and Cat Marnell is such a beautiful shitshow, and everything is just a mess and I’d stop reading and think like oh yes I totally get this, I’m a mess too!
I make a lot of jokes on soc meds and in real life about not having my shit together, and I think those jokes are funny so I will probably continue to make them, but as soon as I’d be like hell yeah Cat, shitshow sisters, I’d step back and look at my life and think, wow, my shit is pretty much together. I make good money from several steady sources, I’m responsible in my jobs and my personal life. My art is on the exact path that I want it to be on, to the point where I don’t really even get anxious about it anymore, which is huge. I rarely feel like I’m at risk of truly fucking anything up. I worry about the effect that the mad outer world will have on my ability to sustain a stable life, of course, but if it were left up to only me I would not be worried at all.
If anything, I think that the restaurant industry has shown me how deep my ability to be a dedicated and responsible person is. At the type of jobs I have, there is no room whatsoever for fucking up. There is no leniency. I’ve had to train myself to be dedicated to something that is, in terms of belief, so irrelevant to me as to almost be antithetical. And then I think, imagine what I could do with that level of dedication and structure, instead of giving it to a system that I generally abhor but utilize for it’s financial stability, imagine if I could give that to a person, to a life with a person. It would be beautiful.