“The Isolate, Slow Faults That Kill.”

http://www.americanpoems.com/poets/sylviaplath/elm.shtml

(posted by noodle)

I’ve never bitten my fingernails, except when I’m trying to even one out. At 15, I used to scratch the backs of my hands with a pencil sharpener blade – until one day my dad noticed my (excuse pun) handiwork and went ballistic (I told him I’d fallen into a hedge, so maybe the weakness of my excuse inflamed his always volatile temper some more.) I went through a phase of stubbing cigarettes out on my arms during the early 90s, having had my mind thoroughly blown by sulphate, TNT and Jon Savage’s England’s Dreaming. I still have these faint circular white scars on my forearms, along with a slightly bigger one where I used a cigarette lighter for extra nihilist bravado. Over the last 18 months, I’ve had a tendency for scraping my knuckles against brick walls and cutting the tops of my arms with a kitchen knife or, better still, broken glass. But only when very very out of it and very very low – I am not a brave person, I swear.

Am I telling you this for effect? Perhaps I am a little bit, I don’t know, but I don’t think I’m exceptional or excessive. They’re just things that have happened to me, and I figure they’re to be described as dispassionately as any of the other accidents of fortune we’re all prone to. I wouldn’t even say that these territorial claims I’ve made on my own body are necessarily symptoms of the same motive. At the time, they didn’t feel so. That’s part of the problem, I don’t remember much about how I felt as a child – I just know I didn’t like it, often.

In the cool/uncool heirarchy, (which you can only see as a spectrum when you’re an adult, can’t you?) I was definitely on the side of the uncool. But weird. Jeez, I’ve just realised I was about to launch into an hour’s psychotherapy, and we’ve got enough to read as it is. I’m practiced, see. I’ve spoken to professionals, on a few occasions, trying to piece together how a current dysfunction came to grow out of past unhappiness. The conclusion I’ve come to is – well, if I word it badly it sounds a little paranoid – that my sadness is only a result of having to deal with others’ inadequacies. That does sound a little egocentric, don’t it? In fact this whole confessional has wormed its way up out of nowhere I expected. Perhaps I should summarise.

Cool/uncool belongs to that horrible phase of life when we give a frog what other people think about us. When we move beyond caring for the judgements of others, we can begin to be ourselves. I’m not completely convinced that this is a good thing.

I’ll shut up now, this rush of words could go on indefinitely, and I don’t want to be the maudlin drunk who traps you at the bar and batters you round the head with their life story.

Not all at once, anyway.

 

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