Sunday, May 18, 2014


I went to the Freud conference yesterday and my professional life clashed yet again with the personal.

Several times I talked to people, most of whom seemed pleased to see me, but I felt myself gush. Now I grow hot with shame.  I should have kept myself to myself.  I fear I become one of those crazy women whom people tolerate but behind the windows of their eyes they judge. 

We wear our underwear on the inside, I hear them thinking.  We keep our failures to ourselves. We put our best foot forward and we do not tell others about our criticisms of colleagues nor of our colleague’s criticisms of us. 

I wear my underwear on the outside.  I make sure it is clean and there are no holes, but the very fact of having underwear is another one of those things that is best kept secret.  

We wear our underwear in order to keep the outer layer clean given what comes out of our bodies, the sweat and other messes. 

Men have less of a problem down below, I imagine, unless of course they’ve reached that dreadful late aged stage of incontinence, but at conferences like the one I attended yesterday, most people have not yet reached this. 

Yesterday, the speakers talked about the difficulties of working with Gender Identity Dysphoria, (GID) in children and adolescents.  Dysphoria means distress, the distress of  some of us who decide they are not their assigned gender, but its opposite.  It’s a tricky one and apparently it’s on the rise. 

I’ve always felt reasonably confident about my gender.  A girl from the start, and still a girl, which is not to say there have not been many times when I wished I were a boy, not for the bodily show of it but for the social power.  For the sense, as my fantasy has it, that the world is masculine. 

As women we are always on the edge of the divide, though not as sharply on the edge as those who do not accept the gender their body assigns them at birth.

I sit in conferences like this and can feel the weight of all those other bodies behind me.  I sit in the front, to see and to hear better.  Goodie goodies and the elderly tend to sit in the front.  I marvel at those who hide up the back or those who do not care where they sit. 

To me it matters.  So much matters to me.  I sometimes wonder whether my internal world is not a mess of self consciousness.  

My daughter tells me that she too suffers, not so much at conferences, or at lectures at her university, but on FaceBook, the younger person’s arena for self presentation. 

On FaceBook some folks wear their underwear in multiple layers, to give the illusion it’s not there. Their underwear itself is part of the performance and their bodies underneath must be polished and primped in perfect proportion to the image they want to create.

It puts my daughter off.  It makes her feel inadequate.  She can never measure up to those pouting, beauties, both men and women, who peer out from their FaceBook pages.
I am relieved that I was not born into the FaceBook generation; that I might use FaceBook as a place to stream my political views or to share the occasional item of interest, but I do not use it as my personal platform. 

My blog can be my place to open out and explore these things but every time I write I shudder inside at the thought, what will people make of it? 

Among a small group of people to whom I spoke at the conference yesterday during afternoon tea , I noticed the face of a woman who had joined our group late and whose eyes suggested deep disapproval of me. 

Whenever I imagine someone dislikes or disapproves of me I examine my conscience.  Now wait a minute I say to myself, Isn’t it you who dislikes her? 

But then I reconsider, and in this instance I know the feeling is mutual.  And I cannot put my finger on the why?  Perhaps it has something to do with our underwear.  


Jim Murdoch said...

I’ve three sets of underwear: grey, dark grey, black. This says less about me and more about my wife who bought them. I’ve had them for years. Try as I might I can’t seem to wear them out. They mostly bore me but I can’t deny there’s small pleasure to be gleaned from slipping on a clean pair. I’ve been accused—although maybe less of an accusation and simply a notation—that I wear my heart of my sleeve. Perhaps it’d be more accurate to say I wear my underwear on the outside; we’re all embarrassed when caught in our scants no matter how clean they are. I went to a poetry reading on Friday. Marion McCready was launching her new book which was the sole reason. She was the only one I talked to at length; I spoke to one other briefly but only as she introduced us. She assured me I knew other people there but none looked like their Facebook pictures. I jabbered. My wife tells me I tend to jabber when I’m nervous. I loathe events like these. I don’t know the rules. I, for example, arrived fifteen minutes before the start time but most didn’t stroll in until a half hour later so the reading eventually started a half hour late. During this enforced waiting period I sat alone in the back row and spoke to no one; Marion and I chatted after the event. I didn’t say anything improper but I was aware our time was limited and felt the need to cram what I had to say—not that I’d planned to say anything—into the unknowable time available. So I jabbered. As the subject of humorous poetry cropped up I tried to recite an old poem about football hooliganism and made a complete dog’s breakfast of it, typically I went on about my health which she made light of because I look fine and I moaned about the non-existent sales of my last book all of which I wanted to take back. That’s a problem with friendships forged online. We sometimes imagine they’re deeper than they truly are. I frequently fret about what kind of friends you are I are. I’m unsure how many categories friends fall into—‘good’, ‘close’, ‘imaginary’ and ‘best’ jump to mind—but that’s me wanting to label everything. It’s an order thing: I need to know the rules (so I can chide myself when I break them) and the proper forms of address—“Hi, this is Lis; she’s my [insert proper designation here] friend.”

I grew up in a phallocentric society—I literally can recall getting my dick out to show I could pee higher than some other kid—and although I realised that socially woman had a rougher time than men I was never that fond of the design of the male body; women were engineered better. The only thing about men I can stand are their faces which I’d never call ‘attractive’, I’d say they had character. Mostly male bodies embarrass me, even the toned. Had I been born a girl I’d’ve been a lesbian.

I too suffer on Facebook. I don’t know the rules. I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing there. I don’t know why anyone would care about what I do nor do I have much interest in what others’re doing. That doesn’t mean I don’t care about some of these people—you and I are Facebook friends and I’m fond of you—but to savour the odd scrap I’ve to wade through so much tripe from others. Partly this is because I struggle navigating my way. It’s not intuitive. I don’t like being there—I resent needing to be there—and I regard it as something of a necessary evil which is why I’m sure I’ve been resistant to learning its ways. As far as I can see its main purpose is to let others know I’m still alive so I like a few things, make the odd witty comment and post an occasional update.

I want to be liked. Mostly through life I have been. Those who haven’t bother me to this day. Unlike you I’m not keen to explore these feelings publicly; my blog’s about writing and I stay on-topic pretty rigidly. Even comments I make on blogs like this I usually wish I hadn’t especially when someone else passes comment (i.e. judgement) on what I’ve said. I’m aware that what I’m saying is in a public forum but there is a side of me that forgets the world’s watching. Go away nasty world.

Anthony Duce said...

Wonderful writing again… So much here I have contemplated too.. It took so long to realize in the end how little I cared for those I would feel disapproved of me..

PhilipH said...

Some of the best people wear their underwear on the outside, Superman is one of course.

Anyway, I guess we ALL have to wear everything on the outside when you come to think about it.

Laoch of Chicago said...

Your piece made me think about Jung's observation, “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” Unfortunately, in my case, there are a lot of things about others that have irritated me from time to time.

avalon said...

Oh how I love this. It makes insomnia almost worthwhile.
Almost everything said resonates.
Facebook is beyond me. As is Twitter. Would not even know how to join.
This inadequacy is odd seeing that I was onto the web very early, in fact so early that Sky News let me blab on about it for ten or more minutes unhindered, prime time.
This was because I was a woman. They thought I was a man, as no woman had yet been able to push a mouse around, so they thought. The Guardian also thought I had to be a man when I commented on something webby.
I have made hundreds of blogs and webpages for myself and others since, and some rather nice ones, but Facebook is beyond me. Why I ask, when there are blogs.