amoldarse o no? que es ser uno mismo, pero eres también en relación a otros. Hablar con alguien por un motivo en concreto o mejor buscar un interés en común? vaya vaya, que lío…
desesperación fué el primer paso para huir de la soledad. pero la desesperación ahuyenta. la diferencia entre enamorarse y amar. enamorarse puedes ser peligroso, adictivo, desesperante, fuente de insomnio…
5. Though authentic selfhood has as its prerequisite the ability to achieve a stable identity irrespective of company, the evening had developed into an inauthentic attempt to locate and shape myself according to Chloe’s desires. What did she expect from a man? What were the tastes and orientations according to which I should adjust my behaviour? If staying true to oneself is deemed an essential criterion of moral selfhood, then seduction had led me to resolutely fail the ethical test. Why had I lied about my feelings towards a delicious-looking of wines, prominently advertised on a blackboard above Chloe’s head? Because my choice had suddenly seemed inadequate and crude next to her mineral thirst. Seduction had split me into two, into a true (alcoholic) self, and a false (aquatic) one.
6. The first course arrived, arranged on plates with the symmetry of a formal French garden.
“It looks too beautiful to touch,” said Chloe (how I knew the feeling), “I’ve never eaten grilled tuna like this before.”
We began to eat, but the only sound was that of cutlery against china. There seemed nothing to say: Chloe had been my only thought that at this moment I could not share. Silence was a damning indictment. A silence with an unattractive person implies they are the boring one. A silence with an attractive one leaves you certain it is you who are impossibly dull.
7. Silence and clumsiness could perhaps be forgiven as rather pitiful proof of desire. It being easy enough to seduce someone towards whom one feels indifferent, the clumsiest producers could generously be deemed the most genuine. Not to find the right words may ironically be proof that the right words are meant (if only they could be said). When, in that other Liasons, the Marquise de Merteuil writes to the Vicomte de Valmont, she faults him on the fact that his love letters are too perfect, too logical to be the words of a true lover, whose thoughts will be disjointed and for whom the fine phrase will always elude. Language trips up on love, desire lacks articulacy (but how willingly I would at that moment have swapped my constipation for the Vicomte’s vocabulary).
8. Given my wish to seduce Chloe, it was essential that I found out more about her. How could I abandon my true self unless I knew what false self to adopt? But this was no easy task, a reminder that understanding another requires hours of careful attention and interpretion, teasing a coherent character from a thousand words and actions. Unfortunately, the patience and intelligence required went far beyond the capacities of my anxious, infatuated mind. I behaved like a reductive social psychologist, eager to press a person into simple definitions, unwilling to apply the care of a novelist to capturing the polyvalence of human nature. Over the first course, I blundered with heavy-handed, interview-like questions: What do you like to read? (“Joyce, Henry James, Cosmo if there’s time?”), Do you like your job? (“All jobs are pretty crap, don’t you think?”), What country would you live in if you could live anywhere? (“I’m fine here, anywhere where I don’t have to change the plug for my hairdrier”), What do you like to do on weekends? (“Go to movies on Saturday, on Sunday, stock up on chocolate for getting depressed with in the evening.”)
9. Behind such clumsy questions (with every one i asked, I seemed to get further from knowing her), there was an impatient attempt to get to the most direct question of all, “Who are you?” (and hence “Who should I be?”). But such a direct approach was naturally doomed to failure, and the more bluntly I pursued it, the more my subject escaped through the net, letting me know what newspaper she read and music she liked, but not thereby enlightening me as to “who” she was – a reminder, if ever one needed it, to the “I’s” capacity to elude itself.
10. Chloe hated talking about herself. Perhaps her most obvious feature was a certain modesty and self-deprecation. Whenever the conversation led her to talk on the subject, Chloe did so in the harshest terms. i would not simply be “I” or “Chloe”, but ” a basket-case like me” or “the winner of the Ophelia award for quiet nerves”. Her self-deprecation was all the more attractive for it seemed free of the veiled appeals of self-pitying people, the double-take self-deprecation of the I’m so stupid/No, you’re not variety.
11. Her childhood had not been pleasant, but she was stoic about the matter (“I hate childhood dramatizations that make Job look like he got off lightly”). She had been born into a financially comfortable. Her father (“All his problems started when his parents called him Barry”) had been an academic, a professor of law, her mother (“Claire”) had for a time run a flower shop. Chloe was the middle child, a girl sandwiched between two favoured and faultless boys. When her older brother died of leukaemia shortly after her eighth birthday, her parents’ grief expressed itself as anger at their daughter who, slow at school and sulky around the house, had obstinately clung to life instead of their darling son. She grew up guilty, filled with a sense of blame for what had happened, feelings that her mother did little to alleviate. She liked to pick on a person’s weakest characteristics and not let go – so Chloe was for ever reminded of how badly she performed at school compared to the dead brother, of how gauche she was, and of how disreputable her friends were (criticism that were not particularly true, but that grew more so with every mention). Chloe had turned to her father for affection, but the man was as closed with his emotions as he was open with his legal knowledge, which he would pedantically share wit her as a substitute, till adolescence when Chloe’s frustration with him turned to anger and she openly defied him and everything he stood for (it was fortunate that I had chosen the legal profession).
12. Of past boyfriends, only hints emerged over the meal: one had worked a motorcycle mechanic in Italy and had treated her very badly, another, who she had mothered, had ended up in jail for possession of drugs, one had been an analytical philosopher at London University (“You don’t have to be Freud to see he was the daddy I never went to bed with”), another a test-car driver for Rover (“To this day I can’t explain that one. I think I liked his Birmingham accent”). But no clear picture was emerging and therefore the picture of her ideal man forming in my head needed constant readjustment. There were things she praised and condemned within sentences of each another, forcing me into a frantic rewriting of the self I wanted to suggest. At one moment she seemed to be praising emotional vulnerability, and at the next, damning it in favour of independence. Whereas honesty was at one point extolled as the supreme value, adultery was at another justified on account of the greater hypocrisy of marriage.