In a triumph of doubts, self-censorship and uncertainties, at the tender age of 34 some sort of awareness dawned on me and I felt the need to produce the following pages at the amazing speed of half word a day. If you were asking yourself what had happened to me, just imagine that I was giving birth to a cactus. And now, on the strength of this charming image, let me explain.
Please don’t laugh: I’m summoning up the pale outline of the set theory that’s stuck into my brain (I hadn’t paid a visit to that neuron since junior high, holy Gödel!) to explain the following: the idea of friendship can bloat and include many kinds of contracts effective between variable numbers of people and/or animals, or shrink to the encyclopedic entry of “relationship of equals based on affection, respect and mutual availability”.
According to this definition, for the first quarter of a century of my life I must have discarded this solution entirely, together with other regrettable overseas phenomena like the macarena or The Backstreet Boys. Before 25, in fact, I went through a few… shall we call them “phases” (the Hispid hare, the Depressed dog, the Blonde, …), and their only common element was a Huge Annoyance in relation to people my age, for whom I had an interest equal to the one I felt for gym class at high school (i.e. naught, or negative values).
What was uniformly attractive to me, instead, was a singular disparity and one-way relationship, which has enchanted me without fail with the same methodical obstinacy with which some people break up but at the next round end up with the same sort of loser. I was looking for an education. A Mr. Miyagi, a captain my captain, a tutor who could pour all their knowledge, experience, taste and opinions (better if under the form of an alphabetical title catalogue for future reference) in a funnel and from there directly in my hyppocampus, thanks. And I needed it ASAP, before my personality had crystallized irrevocably, before opinions, gestures and knowledge had stuck onto me like a dress or an ugly tattoo.
Upon the filling of the bag, I would devote myself to other things: reciprocity, affection and equality. At the time, though, the sponge was not completely soaked so all my attention and availability were tuned on the same station day after day.
A relationship of this sort is not necessarily unbalanced, the only thing is that it’s not composed of people but of a newborn and its big need, linked together by a service agreement. I’ll sit here and produce adorable cuteness, ready to receive the essence of your wisdom, my super Oedipal Holy Family. In exchange, I’ll endure your emotional baggage, I’ll let you manipulate me; I’ll endure heroically while you uncompassionately mock my adequacy (or lack thereof); for you I’ll be the negative party for self-flattering comparisons, I’ll let you light the worst possible light and will try to reach the unattainable perfection you’re dictating, so you could vicariously fix all the mistakes of your past. Just like with real parents.
— You really should [X], don’t you think?
— We all think that you…
— I’m saying this for your own good.
Sentences like these could obliterate any objections related to financial practicability, degrees, professions and romantic objects like crumbs off a tablecloth. I was disposed to do whatever it took to curb the Gorgon and see it turn into the Benevolent Mother, if only for once. In retrospect, I think that the whole purpose of the journey I was taking as a passive and dreamy passenger was a sort of Utopian fantasy in which I had to be alone (without feeling any need to placate this isolation), with a proficiency acquired in X continents and in professions whose psychological equivalent were gladiatorial arenas, but without ever getting excessively autonomous.
And then there were the phrases that had to dissuade me from independent thinking and who would always shrink my bulk and my dreams to the size of a slender loris.
— These ambitions are totally unrealistic, only simpletons can think themselves able to pull it off.
— That’s the poor clerk’s mentality.
— I wouldn’t care to spend time with a person who thinks this way.
I only needed a bunch of words like these and any project I had just finished presenting suffered a pitiless internal slaughter like the Stark family at the red wedding.
And yet, the more I followed instructions and the less I was happy. The more I fathomed and smelled the air and cultivated the list I’d made with jokes and sentences I had heard in passing and the more the blame grew. Until one day the sun came up and stuff I had to account for, problems to report and advice to ask for simply ended. Together with the patience towards killjoy replies like “things are not actually the way you think they are, you’re just lying to yourself!” to my double-rainbows moments of happiness.
The effects ranged from the comical to the terrible. From kisses, hugs and take cares to bloody scenes like The Bride vs the Crazy 88. For a while I lived in a mental landscape comparable to that of Les Miserables, but for once it ended well.
At times I dream of famous dictators or similarly benevolent figures that shoot verbal ammunition at close range. In them I recognize what once were friends. I still feel uncomfortable hearing from my inner critic through their voice. On days like these I patiently call my whole life into question (given that the river flows too smooth and one doesn’t have enough stuff to do), or build up resentment towards everybody and wait for good excuses to quarrel.
Other times, in my dreams I experience what was impossible in reality. The entire purpose of this torture is justified, and only for a second my inner and outer perfection becomes so evident that the Cold Mother takes off her cruel mask and smiles benevolently. I don’t mean a Virgin-Mary or Kanga-the-kangaroo-in-Winnie-the-Pooh kind of mother. I mean a simple, more mediocre mother.