Fashion people today are obsessed with the word "obsession." I get it -- it's over-the-top, extravagant hyperbolic to a tee. According the dictionary tool in my Microsoft Word, the word means "uncontrollable persistence of idea." Its synonym, infatuation, is a slightly less-exhausted word, and therefore, I'll use it in this post for the sake of giving my "obsessions" more credit than being mere flashes in the proverbial pan that is my life.
Recently, I've been caught up with a new infatuation; something that has become another link in my chain of personal definition. Every so often, I discover something new which excites me, which triggers an oft-unexpected burst of physiological euphoria, and I choose to get drunk on it. All the signs of inebriation overtake me -- I begin to act differently, I talk about a subject constantly, and find it nearly impossible to think straight.
Henry Miller. Peter Beard. New York City. Bleach blonde hair. Africa and Versailles. Francis and the Lights. Parisians. Diana Vreeland. Certain parts of Brooklyn -- I could go on but at the risk of becoming tedious, I'll limit myself. These are just a few of the seemingly random subjects which have captured my imagination and shaped my life in ways that few other people, places or things have been capable of doing.
Usually, when opening the door to a new infatuation, I go through a process: I instantly want to know everything about it, I read, I research, I study. I want to feel part of it as deeply and personally as possible, and spend an excessive amount of time thinking about it. The French would call it a coup de foudre -- a bolt of lightning, love at first sight. The Facebook world would call me a creepy stalker. The comic book world would call me a fangirl. I'm a groupie to my muse and I can't stop myself. This is where the "uncontrollable persistence" of obsession comes in, I guess.
I can remember the first time I read a Henry Miller book during the hot summer of 2009. After finishing the last line, I hopped on the subway to Strand Bookstore and bought anything with the words "Henry" and "Miller" on the cover. I sold some of my old books just to get some extra cash for old or rare versions of his work. With the zeal of a newly-born Christian with her Bible, I was frantically highlighting verse after verse of Miller's finely-crafted chapters chronicling his dysfunctional life and times in New York and Paris. I was hooked -- fascinated by someone whose tragic view of the world was so easy for me to understand. The fact that he could write so offensively excited me; it was fresh and unique. It was devastatingly romantic.
My fixation only grew more intense, as one day I decided to walk by Miller's childhood home in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I let out a sigh and murmured, "those were the days," as if it was I who had grown up to write memoirs recounting tales of legless hookers, wronged spouses and fleeting romances. I'd quote him at dinner parties and use him as a go-to for words of encouragement when life got tough. I must have read more than a dozen of his works that year, and have since accrued a priceless shelf of rare and first editions by the man.
Not all of my infatuations are so drastic. Some are merely habits that linger. For over four years, I bleached my normally-dishwater-brown hair to a fluorescent shade of blonde every four weeks. It was time-consuming, expensive and downright unflattering now that I look back at old photos. But it was part of me and I was determined to maintain the image I had created for myself. With my nearly white hair, I was memorable and recognizable; I felt confident and independent.
Cultural and geographical infatuations are different for me, as I'll readily admit that they're mostly based in fantasy. Years ago, my imagination was captured by the wholly different but equally universal romance and beauty of Africa and of Versailles. These places' respective leading ladies, Karen Blixen and Marie Antoinette, were praised time and again in my journal; both heroines in my mind. They were women who saw and lived in the world in ways that are incomprehensible for the average modern day woman. Both overcame societal, cultural and worldly expectations, and ultimately served as tragic examples of the beauty and suffering which accompanies all life.
At risk of seeming crazy to the world, I wrote this post because I thought I'd be appealing to a universal part of all of us. The part that believes that life is only fun because we have no clue what's around the corner, or what will be the next object of infatuation. I asked my best friend (and high school prom date) Keith, to help sum up my obsessions and he put it simply: "You become fixated by people who push boundaries during times when pushing boundaries isn't the norm.. It seems like the thread through everything is your obsession with romantic days-gone-by, individuality and beauty in unexpected places." All of a sudden, I don't feel very creepy at all.