Caroline

I recently had a friend tell me about her newest obsession: Caroline Calloway. She said that she started legitimately following her about a month ago after another (now ex) friend “hate followed” her and spent six months gossiping about her. All of that (ex) friend’s venom actually only made my friend intrigued enough to research her herself. Now, she’s a fan. And, as of last night, I am too.

Why?

Because I identify with her and I think she’s brave and meaningful.

Yup. I do.

It’s incredibly hard to put into reasoned and discernible sentences the way social media has affected my generation psychologically, and to outline the ways we have adjusted to the shifts in our world in a way that generates empathy from our parent’s and our older cousins’ or siblings’ generations (the Boomers and X). But to make a cultural reference some Boomers (and maybe some of “The X”) might relate to, Caroline Calloway reminds me of Janis Joplin. …But also, a little of Zelda Fitzgerald and Truman Capote.

It’s this (Southern?) aesthetic of sadness, intense (perhaps not always totally authentic?) self-reflection, love of beauty, cautioned empathy, poignant mirth about futility, and genuinely risky openness. Where past generations engaged in forms of self-harm like drug use or greed out of a sense of injustice (and the malaise and depression that follows) perhaps my generation overshares. We protest by telling you things that will make you hate us (because you’re tragically predictable), feel too much or make you deeply question our motives and that will, therefore, allow us to cathartically bleed from our souls. We’re angry but we aren’t supposed to be… We aren’t truly allowed to be. So we shock you with the truth one way or another. And, some of us find each other and relate.

We can’t use sex anymore. We can’t truly use violence (some have tried, but thankfully, many of us don’t want to). And, of course, we don’t want to just die. So…how about being painfully obvious? How about embracing “the weird” and “off-beat”? And what’s more weird and off-beat than being very honest? Bizarrely open? Too “out there” with ourselves and our lives to be “taken seriously”. Also, we long to be heard. Just like many of you did…

Yes. A well-off, very well-bred, Cambridge educated young lady with nice things can be genuinely broke.

Think of all the struggling artists of the past from a wealthy pedigree. They existed (especially in an expensive cultural mecca like NYC). Just because you have family money, connections, a world-class education and etc. doesn’t mean you won’t be occasionally broke if you’re trying to live as an artist. My parents (both Boomers) came from decent enough backgrounds but my art major mother and sensitive, well-educated father didn’t give me as many blessings (until my mid 20’s) financially as they had growing up (they eventually inherited an amount from their parents and grandparents and my father has apologized actually…). It happens.

Unless you come from extreme wealth and inherit at least 20 million you have to work at some point (or sell something). Or, if you want to raise children and stay home, etc., you have to be a part of a team effort with a partner or spouse who works (or has that 20 million).

And it truly is overwhelming to deal with this world of the 2010’s. …There may be some criticisms of Calloway that are more well founded than others (maybe she could be more a little more frugal), and I don’t obviously know her well enough to discern her ultimate truths but…if she’s “for real” then she’s amazing. Her art is too. And to some degree, I think she *is* her art. …It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I like it… It’s subversively offensive and beautiful and sincere and hopeful and utterly depressive and moving and humane all at once. It’s very Millennial.

So, think 1920’s, boozy (which translates to today’s thankfully sober but has potential to “get in trouble”), beautiful-flapper-wearing red-lipstick, chewing gum (secretly to annoy very particular people)…listlessly lounging on a chaise. …Although undeniably engaging, she’s gifted to the point where she can appear “ditzy” to the untrained eye.

…She feels deep pain over her older brother’s death in WWI and wonders if anything matters more than true love in all its forms. But, she’s incredibly happy to be alive to reach adulthood (her favorite little cousin died of the flu in childhood)…and so she often feels a sincere joyful thankfulness…but…all of the death, the tumult, the arrogance of the world around her…the simmering (albeit blighted promise) she has, and the need for release, forces her into a state of constant expression. Her life is art. As a brilliant friend in college once described about his view of his own personage (IQ in the 160’s), she is her own “magnum opus”.

It’s not neat, maybe. It’s not always palatable. But it’s (possibly and hopefully) real even if it is more of an (honest) interpretative dance of herself than what you’d see in her most sacred private diary.

Now, I’m not saying I’m in that league as an artist (although I’d love to be a good novelist someday) or am the lady above, but I think I might “get it”. And I am thankful for Caroline’s existence.

June Thoughts on Domestic Travel…

In a couple of weeks or so we’ll be off to visit my husband’s family. We’re looking forward to it. Family vacations are fun.

We love traveling in general though, actually. And it’s one of the biggest reasons we didn’t buy a house sooner. As I’ve said before, for the first year and a half to two years of our relationship (after it became serious), Mark and I mostly traveled.

We visited Ireland, Great Britain, Switzerland, Canada, Netherlands and the Bahamas internationally. In the United States we were in: South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, West Virginia, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas, Arizona, Washington, Florida, North Carolina, Mississippi, Nevada, and Minnesota. (I’ve been to all but six states and need to finish my list soon!)

But, after getting married and having our first child it wasn’t as easy to just pick up our suitcases and go. It’s all so completely different traveling with young children.

Thankfully, we still managed to travel some domestically, even living in Seattle for two years and doing a fair amount of meandering during that time. Our son has spent time on both the East and West Coast (The above photo was from our family vacation to the East Coast last May. That’s a lighthouse in Maine.) And although we are “keen to cross the pond” domestic travel is easier as a family.

It’s also less scary.

Lately, all the stories about tourists dying abroad have reminded me how fortunate I was to grow-up in the 80’s and 90’s when international travel was a heck of a lot safer. Going to the Caribbean or Mexico was a careless, elegant experience back then. “We’re off to Jamaica” or “I’m spending spring break in Cozumel” was very typical to hear where I grew-up. Every spring break from fifth grade to the end of high school girls would regularly return to school with tiny, beaded braids in their hair from their time spent either on a cruise or at a resort in the tropics. They often also had a bit of a sunburn or a tan. If you looked too pale it was assumed you either went to Europe or had a boring break. Ha!

…Why, when I first was dating my husband about ten years ago, he took a vacation to Playa del Carmen for a week and it seemed very normal. Most people who were upper-middle class (or more fortunate) would travel to one hot location south of the US border once or more every year. (As mentioned, the previous owners of our house loved Oaxaca.)

But, it’s changed for the worse.

When my husband was in Dominican Republic last (I’ve never been there), over ten years ago, there were armed guards along the perimeter of the resort and it was considered unwise to venture away from the touristy places. However, he never worried about his safety in his own room, as it seems you might nowadays. And swimming in the pool didn’t have a possible link to heart attacks or respiratory failure.

My husband blames global warming for the problems. He believes that the famine induced in parts of South America and Central America by the slightly changing temperatures may be linked to the increased violence and other problems in the area. That makes sense. A tragic amount of sense…

And, actually, climate change is something to consider with great caution when traveling. A recent article in the New York Times examines the topic further…

But, we’re taking a fairly green route this time and avoiding air travel. And, when we visit outside the US we’ll do so very carefully. Perhaps living in the UK will provide the perfect moment to visit the rest of Europe without having to fly back and forth and pollute so much…

Jersey Parfum

I love Chanel Jersey!!!! And tonight I finally opened my bottle of it.

…That being said I still prefer the eau de toilette (from the original formulation). This parfum is lovely (as is the new eau de parfum) but it’s more of an elegant skin-scent on me than the gently enveloping first form. I do love how the pipe tobacco-lavender note is more noticeable though. It actually even reminds me of a modern, more lady-like version of the vintage version (from the 1930’s) of Caron Les Plus Belles Lavandes, which is very old, smoky, vanillic lavender.

*sigh* Wonderful!

Reupholstery and Wine

A while ago I bought two late 1960’s/early 1970’s Queen Anne chairs at auction. Their shape is fabulous but their fabric is…slightly hideous. We recently bought a rather large vintage velvet sofa that’s a fairly pretty apricot color from an antique store and that piece can be mostly left alone. But, the chairs need help. They have a floral pattern of yellows and browns that reminds me of the dead fall leaves I’m still picking out of our gardens. Yuck!

For the moment they’ll have to be out in the open because I don’t want to store them someplace but I’ve already started to make plans for them. I talked to a local design studio and they said they’d assist in picking out the right fabric, come pick them up from our house and redo them. Easy! And I find this prospect a little exciting. I love a good “before and after”.

…And I’m getting carried away with remodeling ideas. Our kitchen was done (well) in the late 1990’s or early 2000’s I think (?) and it’s still fairly clean and elegant in its aesthetic and appeal. That being said, it’d be fun to change a few things, like the floor. But, my real long-term thrill will be putting in a wine cellar in the basement. *grin* There’s already a perfect spot for it that’s cool and dark.

It won’t be a huge wine cellar but it doesn’t need to be. I’m the only one in our family who drinks alcoholic beverages and we rarely have guests visiting us who imbibe either. Still, I want it done right so it won’t feel dated in ten years. Below are a few ideas I found (yes, on Pinterest) and photos of my chairs:

(Please excuse the mess of vinyl on the floor as my son collects records. Also, I’m missing an orchid from the mantle, but there’s a recently trimmed old-fashioned peony.)

I want the cellar to be a combination of these two…

P.S. One of the last owners of our home was visiting the neighbors today (my husband saw her) and wouldn’t you know it we need to mow the lawns and there were a few peonies I needed to trim. *grimace* I can only imagine what she might have thought. Oh dear. *sigh*

Nothing Special

…Now, there is a particularly unique American problem I’d like to discuss. It’s at the heart of the current political climate and it’s hard to write about or talk about without making someone very upset.

We’re a fairly new country, here in the US. When you compare this country to many others it’s almost frightening actually how young we are. As such, we’re still growing into what I’ll call our “adulthood”. And, one of the things I believe we have yet to learn and become more self-aware of, as a people, is who we are in terms of class.

Many older countries have complex class structures that have evolved over hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years. I believe it was the cultural hegemony of the last century, “The American Century” that created this rebellious, egalitarian push around the world that we see so often today. And we do believe in a level playing field here in the US for certain.

But, what I think we Americans seem to have failed to realize was that as a species, for better or worse, we may have an innate tendency to create inequality. And as much as we don’t have an acknowledged aristocracy here in the US we do have one. And it’s not the “urban elites” that are so often touted in some conservative media outlets that, I should hasten to add, I do not wish to disparage (I read, listen and watch those news sources occasionally myself). Instead, it’s a real aristocracy that resembles the ruling classes of many older cultures. And no, I don’t mean these often mentioned, scary “overlords” either. Think more of the sometimes whiny (sorry) but much more accurate descriptions of privilege you find on the current political left.

The thing is, too often, those on both sides of the fence don’t know who they are. And, since I don’t wish to upset the humble sensibilities of some or the arrogant delusions of others I’ll refrain from delving more into that. But suffice to say, too often social lines are divided along superficial, transient definitions or are based on some trendy nonsense when the truth of it is perhaps much more stark and old-fashioned.

Of course, it’s still possible to climb upwards here in the US but it’s not as easy as it used to be. And that’s partially due to our cultural development (in my opinion): The more populated and established a country becomes the more entrenched social classes become. Things get crowded…regardless of what those self-help “there’s always room at the top” wall plaques say. And, again, while it’s possible to fall into something or reach upwards it’s not simple. Of course, it never was even remotely painless, but now it’s even less attainable and with the shrinking middle class, it’s particularly less likely. …I’ll perhaps write more details later.

…”Those Sort” of Neighbors

Yesterday when I wrote about my new neighborhood I used the phrase, “those sort of neighbors”. I didn’t mean that in a derogatory way so I think I need to clarify.

What I meant was that there are two sorts of people. There are the people who were born into a “background” and those who were not. And by “background” I obviously mean a family that has an at least higher social status than (middle) middle class. And, if you’re just upper middle class you should be extremely solidly so – in 2019, in the US, as a rough snapshot, that’s a middle-aged adult with a house worth (at least) a million (or the financial equivalent) and, at least, fairly elegant social connections.

Now, the people born into a “background” don’t necessarily have an immediate family (but better if they do) with more status than others, but at least their grandparents generally have more status. Or, they come from a family in general that has a significant place in society (their last name). Look up the term “impoverished aristocrat” to see more of what I mean. The rules are complex, I suppose, but that’s a sloppy, quick jab at my impression of the standards that I’ve garnered over the years.

When I said I wasn’t expecting it in the neighborhood I am living in I meant that where I’m living has not traditionally been the very wealthiest part of the city (the wealthiest being on or near Summit Avenue). For example, the nicer old social clubs I know of aren’t generally in this specific neighborhood.

It’s an area that I know intellectual, well-bred sorts sometimes dwell in (my family knew a family that was like that who lived around here – the husband was a fairly accomplished professor) but I didn’t know of or anticipate the existence of the family living next door to us. Again, we are near a well respected university though so I guess it sort of makes sense… And, the previous owners were indeed very culturally aware folks. They loved traveling, especially to Oaxaca Mexico, and the husband was a poetry lover and writer who had been published a few times.

But…I wasn’t expecting this sort of social climate. And it is very different than the other.

Let’s say you live in a neighborhood with homes worth at least $700,000.00 in Madison, Wisconsin: “Those sort of neighbors” in that neighborhood likely have ties to other people with “money” from the past and the present. Their Great Uncle Anders was a US Ambassador to Mozambique in the 1980’s and their mom is well-known in the local gardening club federation and at certain “posh” locations around the city. She also has a coterie of friends who are often quite loyal and extremely hard to “break in with” unless they let you. (for the perfume folks, let me guarantee you she has at least one bottle of an exquisite classic in her cozy, extremely lovely and spacious bathroom). Then, in the same neighborhood, there might also be a young couple in their late 20’s or early 30’s with perhaps a background in the military who both currently work in finance and make a couple hundred thousand a year but are not “those sort of people”. They both grew up in lower middle class families. They’re very smart, driven and generally quite “busy”. And, well, they’ll likely (not always) shrug and look at you like you’re vaguely idiotic if you talk about “old money”. Maybe, they might give a genial smile if they feel friendly, but their general attitude will be one of some sort of sense of true moral superiority mixed with possible insecurity and indifference. Their thinking is, “If I can “conquer the world” and make my millions before age 35 why the heck does any of that other “stuff” matter that much?” (A lot of less fortunate people also have a similar attitude in the US but unlike this example-couple they don’t think it’s so easy to “make a million”.)

I’m sure you can imagine, if you have empathy and common-sense, what sorts of things you would have to consider in each case. For “those sort” you don’t want to lie. You simply do not make crap up. And, you especially do not do so about your current status or that of your family. And, you also don’t want to assume anything… For those affluent young folks: You don’t want to get in their way. They might not be outright rude to you if you do delay them somehow (think accidentally blocking their driveway) but they will look slightly menacingly in your direction, although not right at you, in a way that’s a little scary. Also, the latter couple often makes the “new” choice. They tend to shop at the most “up and coming” stores and be aware of whatever is the latest thing. So, if you want your kids to be taken care of in a vegan, Montessori-like, culturally sensitive pre-school (and even that’s outdated) ask where the young couple plans to send their kids. They know. Also, from my experience, they’re more likely to give hugs and be “laid back”.

I won’t get into politics… But it is obviously intriguing.

Now, on the other hand, if you want to drink really, genuinely good beer or if you want to make an “Old Country” dish the young couple are more likely to not know. They often don’t know the “old ways” of their ancestors. Often, their people’s food culture was lost… They know how to imitate the food culture of people who are not them (they make potato latkes because they had an impressive English Professor who was Jewish and hosted house parties for students) but they know nothing from their (great) grandparents about the traditional dishes of their actual heritage. For example, my grandfather with his old southern family heritage, used to ask my grandmother to make traditional southern dishes (he even opened a restaurant for a short while). My grandmother could make a delicious plate of collard greens and her duck (he frequently hunted) was very good.

It’s all about subtleties. And of course, there are many people with either no real wealth or no actual “background” but with a desire to appear impressive or at least publicly improve their lot in life who try to impersonate both of those type of neighbors. But, anyhow, while both neighbors can be lovely if they’re good people there are two different social terrains with each of them. …Again, I need to be careful with my lawns and my gardens.

Neighbors

Today it was a treat when I was invited in to see my next-door neighbor’s house. And I was intrigued to discover that his great great grandfather was the one who built it. The house belonged to his family’s estate and was being sold decades ago when he gave his wife a tour of the home and she found herself in love with the architectural elegance of the home and perhaps the stairwell in particular. He said that she envisioned it being a place their daughters could make a grand entrance for their proms – wonderful for photos. *smile* And, it is truly lovely.

Our neighbor also shared that his great great grandfather helped start the local university (as I had known), built the homes in most of the neighborhood with his construction company and that James J. Hill hired his great great grandfather’s company to help build his mansion on Summit Avenue at the turn of the last century (because of their level of proficiency). Our neighbor’s great great grandfather also built our house and it originally belonged to one of the members of his family.

It was an eye-opening chat. For one, it occurred to me how little we all know about each other these days… I found it very difficult to know how to begin to discuss our families (my husband’s and my own) but I did say a tiny bit. I’m sure over time more will be discussed. But it’s frustrating to know where to begin.

See, the thing is, our neighborhood, and our next-door neighbors especially, adored the last owners of our home. And our next-door neighbor, the one I talked with today, basically is the heir of this community (although he might not say that himself). One has to respect that. You just do. And people aren’t taught how to do that in today’s culture (and haven’t been admonished to do so for too long) but things still adhere to the way humans have organized themselves for centuries.

My husband and I have our own identities (I’ve shared a lot here for better or worse) and our own plans for our property but one doesn’t want to offend what’s already in place. To do so is…not wise.

I love the history of my new neighborhood. Seeing inside the turn of the 20th Century home next door was delightful. Hearing our neighbor’s family’s rather grand place in this city was an honor. It’s rare to hear so much first-hand (so-to-speak) and as someone who cherishes history, that was an amazing experience.

But, I worry.

We’ll be here for at least five years unless the company my husband works for gives him an Earth-shattering offer and we have to move to Boston. It’s just that I wonder if we need to move somewhere nearby where there are more young(er) families. I suspect our neighborhood would have liked an older couple with no kids to buy our house and not us. The gardens in the front, back and to the sides require daily attention (as our neighbor very kindly noted today). I try to do my best, but with everything else going on it’s tricky. Perhaps I’ll adjust and time will magically emerge. Ha!

And, the silly thing is, when we bought our house we did so because it seemed financially prudent – it was at the lowest end of our price range. We could have bought a much more expensive house. So, frankly, I wasn’t entirely expecting to have these sort of neighbors (even though it is admittedly a very nice house in a historic neighborhood). And I like them, love what I learned today but highly regret not taking the hint from the previous owner at closing when she said, “It’s a nice neighborhood.” *sigh*

Oh dear.

We could hire someone like my in-laws do to tend to things… But besides being financially draining I highly doubt our neighbors would think that that’s admirable. They’re wonderfully Midwestern in that way. You fend for yourself and enjoy it. Every fragrant, aesthetically brilliant, time-consuming moment. And I actually love that. It’s how I was raised…

I like them. But, we’ll see.

Dionysus

Last night, after chatting with my husband over a (decaf) espresso from one of our favorite coffee shops, I told him again how much I love aquamarines. And he agreed that they are indeed very lovely…

I think he’s in shock that I no longer want a sapphire though. I’ve been planning on using that gemstone for over a year. And, he knows how much I valued the sapphire’s durability, whereas the aquamarine is comparatively softer.

But I really do love aquamarines… I have for many years.

And…that leads me to my next realization. You see, after perusing through photographs by Anita Colero (she’s the brilliant individual behind the photos that were taken of the aquamarines for Town & Country) I saw a Gucci photographed with its signature bamboo handles for my favorite department store, Neiman Marcus. It was tremendous, and in that moment I knew that a Gucci would be my “it” bag.

Now, I had thought that a Gucci was possible as my signature “forever bag” a couple of years ago. I’ve loved Gucci for a while and actually have a black ostrich Gucci Jackie that I bought for $900.00 (incredibly good price!) used, but good condition from either The Real Real or Fashionphile about a year and a half ago (I can’t remember which site it was). But, again, now I know. …And I think the black top-handle Dionysus is my it bag (other than the very usable and casual Noé).

I’m going to take a short trip to either Chicago or Seattle to buy it within the next year and a half as I want to buy it directly from a brick and mortar Gucci boutique and not at Nordstrom’s (where I live) or online.

Not the Hermès Kelly 28? Nope. I plan to buy one of those in the next few years, but it’ll just be for fun. Not a Chanel top-handle? No. I love the look of Chanel and Chanel fragrances and beauty products in general are very much one of my loves but the bags, as lovely as they are, are not my signature aesthetic.

So far my “luxury” handbag collection (I have a couple of Kate Spades, a Longchamp Le Pliage, a leather Coach from the 1960’s, a non designer alligator top-handle from the 60’s, and a few other vintages) consists of my Gucci Jackie, the monogram Noé I bought used from Fashionphile for about $750 and a monogram Speedy 25 I also bought used from Fashionphile for a little over $500.

…And on a side-note I have to say that I refuse to use the term “pre-loved”. Ha! It’s just a used bag… Now, that being said, there are benefits of a used bag besides the reduction in price. I just find the term “pre-loved” pretentious and gimmicky.

But truly, on the positive side: The vachetta on used Louis Vuitton bags already has a lovely patina. Also, you don’t have to deal with difficult salespeople and people don’t look at you carrying an old luxury handbag with the same disgust they do when it’s new. (There I said it) When you carry a new luxury bag there’s a stigma attached of over-indulgence whereas an old bag in very good condition just looks like a pretty, quality bag. It might have been somewhat expensive but it isn’t as much now. $540 for an old Speedy in very good shape is not cheap, but it’s not the same as paying $1,000. And people have visceral reactions to seeing things that they label obviously “expensive” so it’s emotionally less draining to just buy an older bag (and it saves money!).

However, new, pristine bags are nice and it can be fun to shop at a luxury boutique (unless you have an annoying SA). So, I do have a plan to buy a new Noé (two Noé bags is a good plan for me) and a new Alma from the local Louis Vuitton. Other than those and the Kelly that’s all I plan to buy other than the Dionysus though. *smile* As much as I love bags it feels icky to buy too many more. And by icky I mean genuinely overly self-indulgent. I might buy a luxury pouch or wallet but no more actual bags. …But isn’t the Dionysus lovely?!

(Photo from Bagatyou.com)

Aquamarines

My love for aquamarines started back in June of 1999.

Every year of my childhood and adolescence we took a trip as a family to visit my grandparents on both my mother and father’s sides. As a child I’d often buy coloring books for the journey and then magazines as I grew older.

One of my favorite choices back then was Town & Country. And in June of 1999 I discovered aquamarines in one of the most beautiful jewelry displays I’ve ever seen before or since (Anita Colero). I’ve even thought about buying that exact magazine again just for those photos.

But, just like the article advertised, it was as if some tropical ocean on a lovely, cool day had found a way to drape itself about you and sparkle. It was instant love.

Here’s a screenshot from the magazine as it’s currently being sold on Amazon (I really might have to buy it.):

…So, even though I adore sapphires and they have a hardness that’s much more desirable for a frequently worn ring, I now want an aquamarine in the ring my husband is making me. Lately I’ve been wearing a pair of aquamarine earrings my mother gave me and it’s been so lovely that it’s not even up for questioning. Aquamarines are also somewhat traditional in marital jewelry anyway.

Here’s the hue I plan find:

Love!

Heritage (a long, rambling post)

It still grieves me to think of what happened with my blog and on Instagram. The way people tried to steal or imitate parts of my style and identity without giving me any credit for the inspiration was totally sickening. The way people twisted their truths and lives to resemble me so they could “compete” was gobsmacking. And while I never “fell for any of it”, it just really, really made me angry.

I had started sharing some things because people share things online in my generation. Then it started. And, at first, I ignored it all.

For years I ignored it…

But, at some point, I began lashing out. I think my life got a bit darker for a while and I lost patience and the perspective to deal with the constant nonsense from about 40 people… Yes. 40.

Some were admittedly more aggressive than others. They also become a lot worse towards the last two years.

I think the funny thing is, even though I’ll likely never receive an apology from any of these people despite their actions, I’m the one left feeling guilty. Guilty for having anything or being anything anyone could be intimidated, impressed or hurt enough by to feel the need to compete or be hateful. But, in part, that’s just the way it is nowadays. If you have real privilege people who aren’t as fortunate will either try to dismantle it or you with lies, they’ll start rewriting their own identity to compete to make it or you seem “equal to them” or beneath them OR they’ll act like you owe them something for your advantages.

Case in point: My ancestry. My ancestry on my mother’s father’s side (my grandfather) really is rare. Their level of wealth, the social connections they had, their English aristocratic roots dating back to the 12th Century (they were French before then), the way they influenced the American South and fought in the Revolutionary War and the Civil War (unfortunately, but heroically and honorably, on the wrong side) are extremely rare and frankly a bit “blue blooded”. Many people came to the US but few were quite like them… And my grandfather was a rare individual on his own merit.

I shared that all first because I was being open and then because I was angry… And, of course, the knighted Norwegian-American author on my father’s side is very rare too. It wasn’t just a meaningless honor he received in 1954.

Then there’s also the other things…

And all of these facets were not just some random connections or “cool things” that you find when you’re digging around on an ancestry site for kicks. They were and are much more authentic to who we still are as a family (ie My mother’s maiden and her siblings’ name was and is the actual name with the title from the 1100’s and that author, as a person, was closer in terms of family social dynamics than just some distant figure in our past.).

It was also just me. It was my current status and not just my background.

My life. My choices. My tastes. My style.

It was the fact that I was truly going to work in politics had I not gotten married. Actually, it was the fact that I DID work in politics for about ten years (without getting paid) and easily might do more in the future. You never entirely loose your fascination after all.

Those are all things to be proud of. Those are all things that are MINE. However, some people who are likely struggling with being mentally ill in some variation, sadly, couldn’t understand that.

I’m still angry and feeling guilty though. And I think the biggest reason is an odd one. It actually has nothing to do with the current climate of things in the world.

As an aspiring author who was planning meticulously for over 15 years to be a lawyer and who has a background in politics I’m never entirely…right. *clears throat* Right? Well, yes.

I rarely ever lie. And when I do it’s almost always for reasons of safety for myself or someone else. There are some things I cannot share about myself and never have online. (We all have some version of that) But…I do focus on things that remove the likelihood of certain conclusions being drawn. And no, that doesn’t mean I’m embellishing truths or glossing over things to make myself look better (as some might be hoping I mean). It means I hide.

And the thing that bothered me the most was that people were copying and competing with my persona. A persona that I created. Now, again, the persona was based on facts and it was “me” but…it was never a true portrait of me down to my actual soul. To truly know me takes time and I’ve come to suspect it can only be done in person.

Why would that bother me so much? I don’t know.

Maybe it was just the sheer stupidity of it all. Maybe it was how depressing it was to think that people would be so heartless or messed-up as to take my persona so damn seriously or misunderstand it and then ultimately “go wild” in their response. Or it could have been that people would have such a lack of appreciation for or understanding of themselves and their actual reality that they would need to steal things from someone else to feel safe or worthwhile.

…Then some people used my emotional months of too-open blog posts to threaten me. And that’s all I should say about that.

But really, only today has it hit me why I truly was so affected by it.

1. I think I really just wanted people to be happy being whoever the heck they are and not find me so upsetting that they had to mentally and emotionally attack me, imitate me or in some cases try to actually become me. You have to be proud of who you really are and not try to “fix” it all like plastic surgery to be something you’re not and never will be in this lifetime.

Of course, again, in the worst case some people may have even partially lost track of their own identity and reality to an unhealthy degree. And that’s just one of the dangers of social media, I suppose. It can become like a drug for some – like an LSD trip that resembles a cross between “Single White Female” and “The Shining”.

But, at any rate, I think we long to be known. And so, 2. I felt incredibly alone.

Imagine being a woman going to a favorite coffee shop every morning right after your husband dies. You put yourself together every morning just to get out of bed for that coffee. It’s your only thing to look forward to. You probably over-compensate and look a little more polished than usual. You wear a perky smile so as to keep others at a distance. Indeed, there’s almost nothing worse than false, patronizing empathy when you’re really in pain. Also, you’re hiding something.

It’s 1986 and your husband was bi-sexual. (No that particular part is not me or anyone in my family. And I’m not lying for safety reasons or otherwise.) Your marriage had hit a snag, as they sometimes do, and you both cheated. Only you cheated with your male, straight, golf buddy from your parent’s country club and he cheated with your also bi next door neighbor, Richard. …And Richard partied a lot. A lot. So, bubbly, lovable and engaging Richard your neighbor (and your husband’s secret lover) got AIDS.

Besides watching Richard die, worrying about his wife Linda and how it would affect her because she didn’t even know her husband Richard was bi, and trying to save your marriage…you had to worry about your own health, the health of your golf buddy AND you suspected your husband would die soon too. But, of course, you couldn’t openly discuss any of it.

Your husband, of course, also got AIDS. And in a confusing twist of fate, you discovered, after asking for dates and details, that your very broken marriage and the fact that you had ceased to share a room seven months ago, saved your life.

But, again, you can’t discuss it. You just can’t.

And then you start getting to know people at the coffee shop by name. It’s fun! …But, alas, some of the regulars start to assume you’re some pretentious jerk for various reasons.

But they don’t know you. Not really.

I mean sure, you tell them some things – the things you think are relevant to various conversations like where your son is going to college or that your great great grandfather started the town when he moved there back in 1827. Or you share things like how you can’t stand dark roasted coffee or putting raisins in potato salad. BUT…you always filter it all through your…”coffee shop persona”.

Again, they don’t really know you.

So, when you start being attacked in many subversive ways and some random woman comes up to you and tells you that she “too” (eye roll) has a friend with an uncle who was friends someone who was once friends with someone who started a town nearby…it amuses you and disturbs you for obvious reasons but also, and mostly, it makes you feel cold in a weird sort of way. You don’t really care that much about that social status on your part. It’s just a piece of who you are. But to her it was cause for really desperate competition and animosity and that’s upsetting. …She just randomly came up to you and started a conversation to tell you about the utter nonsense above…

Or when someone suddenly buys ten Hermès scarves (you often wear Hermès scarves) and feels the need to come up to you as you’re reading F. Scott Fitzgerald and drinking your coffee one Saturday, to tell you that they “bought some scarves” and that they did so with money they also tell you they had to get by selling their plasma…you feel…concerned for their financial state. It’s deeply upsetting.

It’s all weird. Very, very, very weird. Sooo…weird. And a little scary.

Then, finally, some man in line for coffee tells you that you’re evil. He tells you that he’d like to strangle you but he can’t. He says he doesn’t even have enough respect for you to bother hating you. And why? Well, because you’re a straight, rich woman and he’s a gay man who just lost his lover of ten years to AIDS. And he knows you’re a Christian and that your husband died and…he suspects…that your husband had so much more respect given to him at his funeral than his dead lover because your husband died of (what this man in line believes) is cancer…and what’s more to the point: He was straight. (Of course he wasn’t) …This man goes on and says that even though your husband was likely an alcoholic (he assumes you’re lying about this) who he thinks died of liver cancer (because he says he saw him all the time at bars with Richard), that everyone ignored your husband’s blemishes because he was (this man believes) what men are supposed to be.

You try to keep a cool head and tell him that you know his pain and feel real sadness for him. You say that you had a bad marriage and that you wish he’d learn that everyone has problems. But he says he doesn’t believe you. And that any woman who would discuss their bad marriage right after their husband dies is an evil bitch anyway.

…You confess that your marriage went bad in part because of your husband’s sexuality and other unrelated problems. You share that you met someone again, recently, who is a friend of your golf buddy (who you also share was your lover) and that you worry your relationship with him won’t work either because you worry that he too might be bi-sexual because he reminds you so much of your ex husband. You overshare. In public.

The man in line doesn’t believe you and says your version of sympathy is demented. He says you’re insane for making up a story just to make him think you can relate. And even if it is all true it all just makes him feel worse anyway so why would you be so heartless as to share it?

On your way out to your car you worry that the guy who is still filled with rage behind you will truly be a problem. Then, you find yourself being punched in the face by a random, big, bigoted, angry man who claims he, “hates fags” and calls you a “whore”.

You get in your car, miraculously, and drive away. You go to the police. You live in fear.

…That’s what this has been like for me…

More later.