R + J = ?

Saw Seattle Shakespeare Company’s production of Romeo and Juliet, my first time seeing the play as a full-fledged adult.  Whatever that means. In this particular case, it means over 20 years old.

Thoughts, haphazard.  We’ll start by starts and fits.

I know how this play ends.  Seattle Shakes markets it as a play “within our DNA,” and I have to admit that it’s not an exaggeration.  I studied it and variants of it at least three times between high school and undergrad… and I have to say, it’s only as an adult that I get it.

It’s similar to JM Barrie’s Peter and Wendy like that – about children and childhood, for adults.  About young love for older lovers, and/or ex-lovers.

In this production during the masquerade, Juliet wore a veil that altered but did not conceal – transparent, just like her.  Juliet shocks us in her frankness.  Romeo in his twisted teenage self wore a half-mask that covered only one side of his face, because as teenagers we stumble as half-people – feeling misshapen, out of focus, deformed.

When he and Juliet are finally face to face he takes off his mask entirely, and fibre-optic lights descend around the two of them, mirroring the electricity in our brains of adrenaline and serotonin and oxytocin that is love at first sight.

I heard something new this time, Lord Capulet speaking of his daughter:

CAPULET

But saying o’er what I have said before:
My child is yet a stranger in the world;
She hath not seen the change of fourteen years,
Let two more summers wither in their pride,
Ere we may think her ripe to be a bride.

PARIS

Younger than she are happy mothers made.

CAPULET

And too soon marr’d are those so early made.
The earth hath swallow’d all my hopes but she,
She is the hopeful lady of my earth.

Juliet is the final living child of the Capulets.  No wonder they are protective.  No wonder when Tybalt, likely his heir, is killed, Capulet’s first instinct is to make sure Juliet is safe forever.

I finally heard the nurse too –

NURSE

Susan and she–God rest all Christian souls!–
Were of an age:

Infant mortality.  It’s an odd reminder, the rarity of children who have lived into their teens.  That the surviving children were precious and fearful to their parents in a way that we cannot fully understand.

I saw something new in the friar this time too – as a chemist, he is familiar with catalysts, diffusions, careful recipes, parsing ingredients one by one and adding them in a particular order for a particular result.  How tempting to think that human beings can work the same way… and frequently, they do.

The characters were real in a way that sometimes seems impossible for myths.  Juliet was immediate and over analytic, in one breath sure that she doomed her love by speaking her thoughts too truthfully, but setting her terms of marriage in the next.  And Romeo…

What does Romeo do?  It is difficult to find an action of his that is not a reaction.  At the beginning he mopes because Rosaline does not return his love.  He goes to the dance because Mercutio bullies him into it.  He marries Juliet because that is the condition of her love; he refuses to fight Tybalt because his is Juliet’s kinsman; he kills Tybalt because Tybalt kills Mercurio; he leaves the city because of the Prince’s exile; he returns and kills himself because he believes Juliet to be dead.

His free action is to approach Juliet at the beginning at all.

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limits

I had thought that by the time I was 29 that I would not longer have depressive episodes.  I knew of course that depression was a lifelong condition for some people; I just assumed without ever articulating it to myself that it would evaporate for me by the time that I “arrived,” along with the typical aimlessness and self-doubt that are still with me.  What “arrival” is or looks like I can’t say, except that I’ve expected it since I turned 22.

Bigfuck depression arrived on Sunday when I had an anxiety attack over hosting my birthday party.  Hosting is always mildly stressful for me; hosting for myself specifically is much more so.  I knew it was likely to come, just as sure as the cooler weather and rain on the day I had hoped would be sunny and warm.  It wasn’t until the morning of that the questions started – who would come?  Too many people to fit in my apartment?  Not enough?  More maybes and fewer yeses?  How much food should I get?  How much should I spend?  Why am I not good at this?  Why don’t I know the answers?  Why did I pick this date?  – until the folds inside my fingerprints buzzed with fear and I felt sick.

I can identify now what happens, which is that my judgment and instincts are shredded by second-guessing.  I walked one block between my apartment and the store back and forth three times, torn between whether to go and purchase more deviled eggs (somehow I failed entirely at hard boiling eggs) or not.  I bought them and they were uneaten.  I can predict that whatever choice I end up making in that state is the wrong one… yet I have to make a choice.  There’s no sitting things out until the world settles.

An hour before I broke down entirely and decided to cancel.  I went back on that before I emailed anyone.  I held it together while people where there and had fun, but in that state I know that my entire being is questioning – did I say the right thing? do you want to be here, actually? was that joke awful? am I putting people on edge by being so on edge myself? do you hate the food? am I the only one drinking? do you like me? what about now? – that without speaking any of those aloud I know I shadow my own celebration.

When people went home I felt I failed.

All of this has happened before.  I didn’t want to think that it would happen again, but it did, and it will.

The anxiety has passed but the bigfuck depression has set in.  It’s heaviness, and when I fight it’s the same anxiety, the same opposite-day perception of the world that I know is incorrect, but I have no other means to navigate.  Undersea all the time,
a stranger whose elbows wouldn’t work.

So maybe I don’t need to fight this time.  Maybe it’s just a matter of waiting it out.  Making sure that I and the cat are fed, coasting as needed.  Not thrashing against the wait/ weight.

Depression is not a problem to be solved.  It’s an equation that is already balanced and but gives you a sum you didn’t want.  I know that the tide will change.  I just have to wait for it.

more about bodies

The Toast recently shared a piece that featured several Playboy POTMs from back in the day (link is obvi NSFW).  Fascinating in a lot of ways, but especially in how our definition of beauty has changed over time.  The pictures are hokey and odd and the posing honestly bizarre, but up until the final one from 1972, there’s a certain innocence that’s hard to quantify.

It’s not in the posing and what is shown or not shown – it is in the bodies themselves.  While all of the women are white and thin, before the 1972 picture their breasts vary in size, nipple shape, and their skin bears the slight folds that skin does.

Starting 1972 is when the woman’s body looks like manufactured.  Beautiful, yes, pert, perky, perfect, impervious.  It is a picture that could be one from today – not just because of the hairstyle and the lighting, but because she looks plastic.

The words we use for beautiful bodies are ones that make the bodies into objects: sculpted.  Bronzed.  Built.  Cut.  Steel.  All materials that last and hold their shape, while bodies themselves grow and shrink and wrinkle and change.  Soft.

My mother is unhappy with her body.

It took me a while as a kid to realize this, that the body that comforted and held me with soft curves was not one that she liked.  That she didn’t get in the pool not necessarily because she didn’t like swimming but because she didn’t like swimming suits.

She’s tried dieting, and we always ate healthfully in our house.  She wears a pedometer and walks.  She follows her doctor’s instructions and takes it seriously, the health hazards of obesity.  That doesn’t make a difference, and this time when she visited and mentioned the latest diet, in which she lost weight and put it back on, I finally heard what a source of shame and stress her own body was to her.

I heard a woman comedian recently in a conversation say that she was just waiting for the trapdoor to finally open under her and drop her out from the success that she’s achieved.  Life is full enough of trapdoors opening – the hidden debt, the undiagnosed secret, the wrong left turn – but women in particular must walk gingerly over the trapdoor of their bodies changing and the world suddenly turning its face away.

It hasn’t happened to me, yet, but I already carry my own baggage with my body, and I still angle myself in pictures and in the mirror to try to show my ‘best side’.  To try to trick the light into showing the body that I ‘ought’ to have instead of the one I do.

I’ve seen pictures of her when she was young and she looked like me.

She visited recently and we walked a long ways to the park that is by the waterfront.  The sun was bright and hot and she was feeling the heat, as well as every incline that we encountered.  We stepped into the cool shade of several trees and I looked for a place to sit, because I could tell she was tired.  All benches were taken so I suggested the grass, cautiously.

She sat, cautiously, a multi-step process to be done with care.  We talked and looked at the boats and birds on the water.  When we got up she wouldn’t let my dad or me help her.  She rolled to her hands and knees first and then stood up that way.

It’s a test of health, she said.  Being able to get up on your own.

I have no ending.