TALES OF AN ORANGEPEELER
an archive of pleasures, wounds, sublimations
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A few months ago, I came across an online diary belonging to a chemistry professor living in the Midwest, and read, engrossed, as he detailed his growing emotional detachment from his house-and-child-bound wife and his failing efforts to connect with his toddler son. At one point, the diarist attempts to find happiness in a friendship with a woman, a colleague, to no avail. Often the diary is little more than a catalogue of complaints, the whine of frustrated masculinity.
The writing style itself is neglible; art is not the diarist’s goal. What he is doing, I think, is recuperating lost things, giving voice to the unsayable. He refers to the loss of his youth, the waning of the thrilling urgency of those times, replaced by cynicism and, yes, a revulsion against the state of things that must, must!, be repressed, if only to maintain the durability of his family. Although the diarist does not fancy himself a writer, he addresses an audience, a faceless and mute stranger, who cannot respond with either criticism or sympathy to this public confession, this relieving of his conscience from the burden of the unspoken, a baring of all the things he does not dare to tell his wife, the feelings and goals and desires that counter, even endanger, the heteronormative model of the family.
And they who are addressed: I read, fascinated, because I too have certain thoughts, of course very different from the diarist’s, about this constraint, this mercy, of marriage, of family. But knowing the difference, between my first marriage and this marriage, between what I was and who I am now (however subject to change), and having made peace with my past, my childhood, I am able to accept the uncertainties and dilemmas of my situation. The lost things, old freedoms and options, flicker in the depths of my past, curious objects half in shadow, slippery revelations of former selves.