My older daughter still living at home is holding a dinner party today for a few of her friends. Early morning and she is frantic, trying to turn our normally cluttered kitchen living area into a tidy, well appointed room, elegant enough in which to receive her guests.
I am past trying, but to absorb some of my daughter’s anxiety I oblige, as do the rest of us in this household, even as we tell her to calm down. One day she will hold her own dinner parties in her own place wherever that might be and I will be spared the shared load of preparing the house for visitors.
These days my husband and I do not hold dinners as often as we once did, ten-twenty years ago. Almost every weekend we had friends over for dinner, but in the last several years our socialising at home has dropped off to the occasional dinner with one or two select friends, otherwise we tend to go to restaurants when we want to have a special meal.
I could say I am too lazy, but it is more than that. I am past it, the effort involved. I have never enjoyed cooking as much as I might, though my husband still loves to cook and he cooks well, but even he with his culinary excitement restricts his efforts these days to weekend meals for our immediate family. It is strange how much things change over time, how something that once gave us the greatest of pleasure becomes a burden.
‘Stop blogging about me’, this same daughter says as she walks through my writing room in search of extra glasses for the dinner table. The glass I used last night and left behind in my writing room forms the sixth of a set and she plans to use the lot as ramekins.
It is probably a good thing that blogging did not exist when my children were little for I fear I would be among the first to cover the Internet with words about their antics.
Now that they are self possessed older folk they might well resent the idea that the rest of the world could read about their childhood idiosyncrasies as reported through the loving fingers of their mother.
Which brings me back to that thorny old issue: writing about other people, inside and outside of well placed literary disguise.
Did I tell you? My analyst wrote about me once in a book, an official book called The Geography of Meanings. Find me if you can. I will not identify the chapter because I will thereby identify my analyst. And that is a no no. She has told me she values her privacy.
She and I had something of an altercation many years ago when I wrote a paper on my analytic experience. I did not identify my analyst by name but she was convinced that others would recognise her.
Why not be recognised? I thought at the time. I had identified her lovingly as the analyst who had helped me to come to terms with the paradox of life. My university supervisor, a literary critic, considers that my analyst in this essay reads as another Marion Milner. Milner is the esteemed psychoanalyst, artist and writer, also known as Joanna Field, ‘the pioneer of introspective journaling’.
In my analyst’s essay in which I feature as a previous ‘patient’ in three separate locations, she describes me at one point as a ‘he’.
After I had read the essay, I put my perceived identity to the test and asked my husband to read it and see if he could find me. He did so instantly. For my own benefit, I highlighted the sections.
I say I do not mind being written about in this way. Although the descriptions are not flattening – a person who is rigid in her tendency to split between good and bad – I consider it a description of an aspect of me as I once existed, if at all, in our analytic exchanges, not the me who exists now.
I take offense though at the extent to which my analyst took me to task for writing about her. I have since dedicated an essay to the subject.
It seems one way I cope with my difficulties, I write about them, and even as I write about them, I imagine people lining the streets ready to fire bullets at me for writing about myself, about them or those near and dear to them.
We live in an age of self-exposure. We live in an age of the personal revelation. We read memoirs till they pour out of us and think nothing at learning the most intimate details of another person’s life.
Jacqueline Rose writes about the cult of celebrity as a ruthless tendency to take possession of another, to get our celebrities to be perfect and then try desperately to strip them bare.
We revel in their failures. We enjoy any shaming that can take place in the life of a celebrity. Perhaps in this sense, celebrities can be seen to be like parents, the ones we might begin our lives by putting up on pedestals, only to dash them off when we realise they have failed us.
But our parents are too close to us for us to want to share them. Their faults, after all might be seen to belong to us.
You know how it is? You can insult a loved one, but no one else is allowed to do so.
I feel the same tremulous fear in writing about my analyst, whose strength and help I value, and yet here I am speaking of her in public, however non-identified. I point out her hypocrisy in first criticising me for writing about her, and then later writing about me, however much in disguise, and I feel once again the shiver of guilt that comes from ‘telling takes out of school’.
But the writer in me, refuses to concede to the moralist in me who tells me to shut up and stop blogging.