Portrait of a Lady, Titian

Fooling Around, part two: what we choose to see and hear

If every book is a love affair, every poem is a flirtation. Dallying with Donne, yearning with Yeats … and mumbling “What the fuck?” along with Millay. I have a tendency to read biographies of my favorite poets, though, and then I tend not to like them too much as people – or maybe in a family sense more than a romantic one.

Songs, now, are just straight-up sex. Billy Joel and I have been intimate in every possible way, except in person and mutually. But that’s his loss … ahem. I digress. But music: hell yes, and as much of it as possible. Ditto dancing.

And yes, all of these things seem like infidelity, don’t they, in a sense? Or they did to me, since my ex and I didn’t do them together. My taste in books and poetry – he has no time for poetry – and music were at best tolerable to him, and I think my dancing embarrassed him, though I only danced in the house. Still do.

I have given far too much thought to the anatomy of fidelity during the 15 or so years it took me to fall out of love. (Here I must gently restate that my original aim with “dayzha” was to process separation, as in marital separation. Need to change that pesky “about” page again soon.)

The various meanings we attach to fidelity have a lot, I think, to do with today’s fractured relationships – well beyond marriage, but certainly including marriage and other romantic partnerings. “Semper fi” (or fidelis) is the Marines’ motto: “always faithful,” and we as humans (I believe) have a deep need to be faithful – to a creed, a belief set, a person, family, community and so on. It’s part of our need to belong.

But we also need to be individuals, each of us a single thinking machine inside a bone skull, driving a human body through a lifetime. On a crowded, overly connected and now seemingly social-media- and reality-show-based planet, the conflict between belonging and being has gotten mighty weird.

So we fool around. We fool around being ourselves, seeing what we choose to see and hearing what we choose to hear, feeling guilty because those we should be (and want to be) faithful to just don’t approve of us when we’re ourselves. Sometimes. So we make up versions of ourselves – faces to meet the faces that we meet, to paraphrase T.S. Eliot.

To be continued …


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