I have been so blessed to be in a university where the teachers are very paternal and caring about all the students. I'm going to miss the English Language Community when hopefully God willing I graduate. I've almost finished all my English and translation courses and the course I'm taking is the last. All I have left are sucky as hell Arabic electives that just don't seem to finish. Right now, I'm taking a 19th Century American Literature class with one of our favorite teachers. He's the one teacher who gets all the students to sit absolutely spell bound in class and when we leave, we're always arguing and discussing the points we've taken in class. So far we've taken The Birthmark and The Black veil by Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of The Scarlet Letter. The Birthmark is about a woman with a distinctive birthmark that she once thought was attractive and set her apart from people, only to be appalled and ashamed of it when her husband wants it removed. "Remove it or let me die" is her plea in the story. The Black veil is about a minister who wears a black veil and how people pointed and whispered of scandal even though he once thought he was loved and accepted. At our last class, he was wrapping up the stories by asking what would have happened if just one person came and asked the minister what's wrong and truly listened to him instead of turning their backs on him. What would have happened if the husband of the woman with the birthmark told her that it's what made her unique and attractive and simply accepted it, thereby validating her? And why is it that people can't be honest with one another? He pointed at a girl and told her if I told you a secret right now, even if you were guilty of the same thing, you wouldn't tell me right? You would first shame me because I was brave enough to tell the truth and then tell another person and another until the brave act is regretted. He spoke of roles we play and how people just talk to fill the silence, but no one truly knows one another. He told us that its terrifying that two people might share a bed together, share children, and yet at night turn their backs on one another neither acknowledging or validating the other. No one achieves what he calls "psychological nakedness' with another human being because people are afraid of being…
"Vulnerable" I filled in the blank as he wrote the key words on the board and I looked around at the girls. Everyone was staring at him intently with questions in their eyes.
"Sir, if two people can achieve that level of honesty with one another, it's an absolutely new level for relationships as we know them" I said reverently staring at the words on the board.
"A whole new level of existence" he assured me, and he turned to the girls "I'm not naïve people. I know it almost never happens, I'm just saying…"
He let us go out early that day. I think each of us were evaluating our own selves and measuring our friendships and weighing our roles in our families. For me, it felt like the earth shook a little. Later some of the girls laughed it off and some like me, were haunted by the questions. The questions followed me into Astronomy class as we gazed at pictures of stars. They followed me home as I spoke to my cousin Sas and had her haunted too. I had to ease the voices and questions in my head so I wrote down the questions.
We live in a world where appearances are all that matter. There are some who fall into debt in order to admit that they are better off than they really are. Many lives have been destroyed because people are on the constant search for Utopia which ironically means no place in Latin. We have been conditioned from a young age to fit into what society expects because if we don't, then we are an embarrassment to our families. From childhood, we have struggled to fit into the niches that don't truly encompass all that we are because we fear that our families might withhold their love from us. Perhaps we are incapable of loving anyone unconditionally much less ourselves. Who is capable of loving someone so completely that you accept all their flaws and discrepancies and love them because of that, and not in spite of it?
There is a study that says romantic comedies are to blame for women being unsatisfied with their husbands or partners. If we're constantly bombarded by these glitzy idealized images, then its no wonder that so many self-esteems are completely shot. Media shows us that only if you were tall, tanned, and toned that you could be considered attractive and maybe even worthy of being loved.
Are we truly capable of unconditional love or is it something we outgrow as we grow older? Where does unconditional love being and idealization end? If we look up to someone and idealize them, can we truly say that we know them that well? Do we just see the surface? Can unconditional love and idealization be the same thing? Are two people capable of opening themselves up to the point of "Psychological Nakedness"? No fears of judgment, no conditions, is that even possible?
Sometimes I think men in our society have been raised on the idea that no matter what they do, they are going to be loved unconditionally whilst a woman becomes a pariah if she's even thought guilty of the same mistake. If that's the case, then its no wonder that men are so intolerant of a woman's honesty even as they are so quick to confess their sins to her. We're always wearing masks and playing roles for people. We're always living up to other people's expectations and never our own. If we live our lives hiding under masks and playing roles, then who is the one who truly knows us for all that we are? I'm always annoyed at the phrase you don't even know me. Who really knows the other nowadays? Everyone is pretending to be someone else or hiding their inner most selves.
I know I have been guilty of putting people on a pedestal then watching the rose coloured glasses shatter when they eventually disappoint. I think poetry is to blame for that. You tend to forget that people are living and breathing creatures and not as heroic and epic as they become in a poem. I thought I loved unconditionally but now I wonder if I truly loved that unconditionally there wouldn't be that nagging I wish they would change this or that about themselves. If I did idealize someone, did I cheat myself out of knowing who they really are or did I do as best as I can, given what they allowed me to know?
Questions, questions, questions…I don't even know all the answers. Are we supposed to live with this awareness? These questions about whether we truly know someone or not? And how can we know someone if no one allows us in? Sometimes I feel I'm too open. I think writing teaches us that…to be open with feelings and ideas and yet still shield a part of ourselves.
Maybe I'm just rambling as usual…But what better way to drain the questions out of my head than to haunt someone else for awhile.