So I talk to my little cousin Oliver, ten years old and full of the joys of spring, and I absolutely despair for him. It breaks my heart. He blushes when he gets something right and cries when he gets something wrong. He hates hates hates choir. And my aunt and uncle are putting so much pressure on him and they’re going to send him away to school, and I’m breaking my heart over it. I asked my sister to try to persuade them against it but I know she can’t really do that. Lord knows I can’t talk to them, they can’t stand me at the best of times – the only reason I have any contact with my cousins is because I push for it. I don’t know. I’m one of those ridiculous people; I never quite got over my childhood. Romance, tradition, agony and irony. The happiest and most miserable days of my life – and the worst time in the world to find out you have a heart. No deep mystery to my JD Salinger fanboyism.
I just hope beyond hope that the mad gene doesn’t get him. He’s already been labeled as over-sensitive – which my uncle seems to think is a terrible illness that needs sorting out, pronto. I suppose it gets me thinking about my own experiences. By most people’s standards, I suppose I am an utter failure. I know it – and yet I don’t really care very much about it. I don’t know whether it’s a sort of misguided self confidence/arrogance that makes me unable to view myself as a failure – but it’s pretty lucky that I’m able to ignore everyone’s total disappointment in me.
Don’t get me wrong, I truly despair of myself a lot of the time, but unless I’m completely depressed I always have a vague sense that everything will turn out right in the end – even if it’s not what other people would call ‘right’. I don’t really care that I don’t have the career I was ‘meant’ to have – lots of things have got in the way, plus I’m not offensively competitive and I don’t feel the need to impress anyone by being ‘successful’. I like to please people, certainly, but I don’t have the desire to impress them. I know that sooner or later things will fall into place and I’ll probably get a job as an eccentric teacher in some inoffensive little prep school somewhere, and I’ll make a point of being very kind, and I’ll settle down with someone and we’ll get a dog and move to the countryside and I’ll be slightly mad until I die. You know. Something like that. (Hated school as a kid? Become a teacher! Right those wrongs!)
Or, of course, I really will run away to sea. I could buy a cruise ship (or steal one…) and really do it in style. Everyone’s invited!
Whatever the future has in store for me, I’m almost certain I won’t be a successful person in the eyes of others. And that’s fine. I just want to be free, moderately happy, with someone to love and a good sex life.
Anyway. This is what I want someone to tell Oliver. It’s alright if you’re not a star. It’s alright to fuck things up. It’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright. In childhood, there must be room to dream. There must be room for adventure, and room to fuck up. There shouldn’t be so much focus on competition and prizes. You should not want to impress anyone except yourself. But Oliver does want to impress people. I can see it in him. He wants to please his father most of all.
Anyway. I don’t suppose there’s much I can do about anything. I’ll just have to watch from the sidelines and make sure he knows he can come to me about advice, and whatnot.
In other news – I’m still feeling a bit Brigitte Bardot, though not as blonde or as buxom. Am currently smoking a cigarette butt with the cat sat on my foot like a big warm cat slipper.
Novel news: I will not have a novel written by the end of November. Although I may have several limericks, which is almost the same as having a finished novel, just shorter and rhymier.
Bladder news: infection waning.
Toscar news: He was bitten by a poodle yesterday. Not a euphemism.
Here’s another picture of Brigitte just to round off the evening.
Goodnight, goodnight, goodnight.