Somebody stop me

The Mask (film)

The Mask (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last night I dreamt about a girl I used to know, and was friendly with. In the start of the dream we were good mates, if not more, and she was a happy, funny, individual and all-round captivating person. It made me remember what she was like, and wonder why I ever let her go out of my life. In the dream I was thrilled, I felt lucky, but some of this reality dribbled into the dream so that slowly it morphed into another version.

In version 2.0 the dream much closer reflected the reality of how we left it. We worked, or were pretty much in the same proximity as each other. We were polite when we had to be, but generally had nothing to do with each other: a barrier had been erected between us. I had a similar relationship to the others, as if I was a tolerated outcast. Surprisingly I did not feel despondent about this. I went about my things, a curious observer who still harboured hopes of a reconciliation. I felt, in the dream, very much a focus of her mind still, and as if occasionally I could discern a spark of life in our brief meetings. From there the dream went off in extravagant and richly imaginative directions, like a very entertaining Fellini movie at his most absurdly creative.

The dream – or dreams (though they seemed continuous) – were fun. It was good to recollect this girl in her glory, and to remember that actually once we had been pretty close, and that the dream was not that distant from the reality we once shared. All the same, I knew the dream wasn’t about her. She was a symbol I guess, representative of something else. What? I could speculate on that all day and come up with half a dozen different variations. I won’t bother with that, but somehow it leads me to other considerations.

I’ve written often in these pages about what I see as being two fundamental and opposing aspects of my self, restraint and excess, the ascetic and the bacchanalian. Right now I have a ascetic lifestyle imposed on me and it’s rubbing me up the wrong way. I itch to break free, to live a bit, to stretch my muscles and indulge my senses. A so-called balanced lifestyle should be the object of most people I guess, and though I think I’m different to most people mine seems seriously out of whack.

Perhaps because I am feeling this so starkly my mind has wandered into deeper matters. Traditionally I have framed these opposing ways in terms of lifestyle – drinking, eating, wenching to my hearts desire, and not (or perhaps, in moderation). I’ve twigged, much too late, that there is an underlying component of this which mixes philosophy with psychology. I am torn between different ways, and conflicted by the battle. That conflict has become a central part of my life. It’s time for me to own up to it.

Fundamentally I think I’m a decent man. I’m generally kind to strangers, I have a concern in the issues that affect us all, and I have a strong ethic towards ‘doing the right thing’ – whatever that might be. The responsible citizen in me wants to settle down with wife and children, wants to build a home, imagines a lifestyle much as I grew into as a kid – the dull, but cosy existence of being a homemaker, tending the garden, planning renovations, picking up kids from school, going on family holidays, et al.

There is another side of that though, what a shrink might call the shadow. This is the fun side, the Mask against Stanley Ipkiss. Back in the day I might have termed this the excessive half of my persona, the invitation to live big and don’t shirk the details. Over the years I’ve greatly enjoyed this life, and gone hard at it. At some stage always I tend to grow tired of it. It seems ultimately shallow, living for livings sake without any real sense of permanence or future. It’s all today, all now in fact, and so I drift back to the kind of aspirations that dull Stanley Ipkiss dreamt of.

The fact is I get a little guilty. I remind myself I’m getting older, that I should be more responsible. I tell myself that some of my excesses are unseemly, and betray a need to be still youthful. Truth be told there are occasions I wake up after another banal episode remembering that mostly reality doesn’t measure up to expectation. So, why do it?

Actually, there are many reasons. I love to be social. I love to drink, to eat well, to flirt, to fuck, to dare myself and others towards the edge. None of this is new to me, but they seem like facts I’ve tried to deny, or at least subvert, for many years. That middle class conventional side of my self thinks I should be Stanley Ipkiss or some variation of him. The other side yearns to be Hank Moody, or to slip on the mask and go for broke (“…somebody stop me.”). If I continue in this conflict I’ll end up like another classic cinematic character, Lester Burnham. That’s not what I want.

From a purely rational point of view it seems silly to deny who you are, but then human beings are generally irrational. I’m rationality personified in things external to me, but all bets are off when it comes to my self. Could I live that deeply domestic lifestyle I described above? Probably not – not in it’s entirety in any case. And though I love the sensual abundance I sometimes partake of I couldn’t live that way all of the time. The time’s come to be perfectly honest with myself.

I love to eat well, to drink, and I love to fuck a lot, and that’s not something that’s ever going to change, and god forbid that it does. This I have to own up to and quit denying. I’d rather have a warm breast in my hand than a pair of garden shears. That may well be my destiny, but there remains the hope in me that I come to experience some variation of the domestic scene I described above. I do want wife and children, and though I protest I’ll happily do some work in the garden and around the house – but I want more too. For me at least both ends of that spectrum are without soul if that is all they are. The trick is not to alternate between personas, but to integrate the two into one. That means owning up to the shadow without judgement, and applying some of the abundant pleasures inherent in that to that other, domesticated* side, to make them one.

What does that mean? It means I’ll continue to wench to my hearts content, and without judgement. I’ll stop when I feel it. One day hopefully it means I’ll wench and live some of that sensuality with my wife. I’ll mow the lawn sure, I’ll pick up the fucking kids from school, but I also want to indulge myself – ourselves – in the pleasures of being a physical being. Too much dear, is never enough.

*That’s a word, or inference I hate actually: domestic, domesticated, etc. It feels much like a horse being broken in, or a dog being neutered. It’s a collar around your neck. I don’t ever want to be domesticated, not all the way through. I think there’s a sense of wonder that is part of being undomesticated, and too easily lost otherwise. I want to be irrational and irresponsible sometimes, to go with raw instinct rather than measured intellect, to recall I come from primitive stock. I don’t want to fit into anything but my own skin. And I want to go as I feel, to colour in outside the lines as I get there. Part of that is to remember that nothing is pre-ordained, that there is nothing that I’m ‘meant to do’. There’s nothing wrong in digressing sometimes, or being selfish occasionally, and refusing to play the role others want you to. Wild is fun.

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