Your web-browser is very outdated, and as such, this website may not display properly. Please consider upgrading to a modern, faster and more secure browser. Click here to do so.
As previously mentioned, at one point this weekend I found myself with some friends in an Irish bar in Heidelberg. One young man brought up the topic of gun control. “What do you think of that, Emily?,” he asked, half-jokingly, knowing full well what my opinion on gun control is. And, because I think that people should know that they shouldn’t poke a bear (yes, I just likened myself to a woodland carnivore), I told him. And we got into a discussion that was an argument—but an argument, I thought, that was about gun control policy, not about who we were as individuals. And another friend, also a male, joined in, agreeing with me.
“How did we even get started on this topic?,” the first male friend asked.
“You turned to me and specifically asked for my views on gun control,” I replied.
“You hate me,” he said. And said and said and said.
“Jules, y’know, honey… this isn’t real. You know what it is? It’s St. Elmo’s Fire. Electric flashes of light that appear in dark skies out of nowhere. Sailors would guide entire journeys by it, but the joke was on them… there was no fire. There wasn’t even a St. Elmo. They made it up. They made it up because they thought they needed it to keep them going when times got tough, just like you’re making up all of this. We’re all going through this. It’s our time at the edge.”
I was in high school, I think, when I watched St. Elmo’s Fire. Or maybe early college. But somewhere in the range of 15 to 20, because that was the period in which my best high school friends and I met regularly to watch and make fun of movies. And St. Elmo’s Fire, which is a Brat Pack movie about recent college graduates, was perfect for that. Like, why is Demi Moore’s character trying to bury her step mother in a cat costume? The fun that could be made of St. Elmo’s Fire! And that’s what we did. I did. I made fun of the movie and didn’t think of it much again.
But I did this weekend. I just finished reading Tiny Beautiful Things, a collection of advice columns originally published for The Rumpus, which is this literary-ish website that I sometimes read. Anyway. I will blog more about the book later. The book is not the point. The point is that the book, and the advice given in it, made me think once more about St. Elmo’s Fire, of all things. And it did so for this reason:
The above quote is said by one incredibly screwed up character to another after the latter lists all of the things that are wrong in her life. All of her problems. And this is the response. And it is so perfect, I think. Because no, Demi Moore’s character, these aren’t problems. These are things that you are clinging to because it makes you feel better, in some strange, painful way.
And that’s what I do. That’s what I do all the time. I was going to detail examples of proof that this is what I do, but instead I will just say that you need to believe me when I say that I am almost 23 and lacking in perspective and that I have been following St. Elmo’s Fire.
But the truth is that my problems aren’t problems. Not in the grand scheme of things. Not even to me.
And none of this means that I don’t get to be sad or mad (or none too glad), because I do, because everyone does. But it does mean that I’m going to get through this. We’re all going to get through this.
This is our time at the edge.
In high school—and maybe also earlier on in college, come to think of it—I used to say that I was having “an ugly day.” Not every day, obviously. But if there was a day in which my hair wasn’t doing what I wanted it to or I felt my nose looked particularly large or my skin was blotchier than usual, I’d anticipate the criticism. “I’m just really having an ugly day today.” “Oh, today’s such an ugly day.” And the response, without fail, was that there was no such thing as an ugly day, and that I looked pretty much as I did every other day. And then I’d mock offense (or actually be offended—I can no longer really remember). And eventually I stopped doing things like saying that I was having ugly days, because I realized that that was bad for my self-esteem (and also really awkward for everyone). And, though I may have still believed in ugly days as a concept, I hadn’t really thought of them since I stopped citing them until this very evening.
Well, it took almost six months, but I finally submitted the first draft of my Fulbright-sponsored article to the professor who’s sort of supervising me here.
I really hope that she likes it, obviously, and thinks that I was worthy of an invitation to this institute, but honestly? I’m sort of proud of it. Like, yes, I know that there is still work to be done on it, and that is work that I still intend to do. But it’s longer (and better, I think) than my senior thesis, and I submitted it by the deadline that I had set for myself (to my great surprise), and I realized, reading it over, how much research I’ve done for this, yes, but also how much I’ve learnt and grown as a student of this region and, for that matter, of history and politics and this world.
And I know that this post is insufferable, but I’ve worked on this paper every day since coming to Bremen, almost, in some capacity or another, so please, just for today, and before I hear back from my professor and see everything that’s wrong, let me just feel that I did this year thus far right.
She said something in Polish. “Do you know what it means?” she asked me in English. I shook my head. No, I didn’t. “It means, ‘I will be missing you.’” We hugged again and I walked away, out of the bar and down the street to the tram stop, where I realized, to my surprise, that I had teared up.
I’ve been saying goodbye to people a lot lately, as the Erasmus kids who were only here for one semester pack up and leave, making room for next semester’s. And, while most of the people whom I would consider actual friends are staying for the year, I knew and liked a lot of the people who have gone. And so I went to their goodbye parties and hugged them and wished them well and said, “See you,” realizing before I’d even gotten the second syllable out that, no, in all likelihood, I wouldn’t.
I was friendly with the aforementioned Polish girl. We’d had a language class together, and met up occasionally in smaller groups for beer, and chatted when we both happened to be at the same larger party. I’d met her boyfriend and her roommates. She had other, closer friends, and so did I. But we saw each other around, and we won’t anymore.
On Sunday, I read an article on an online website—I cannot remember which—that was a compendium of tweets saying, essentially, “Anne Hathaway is looking into the mirror and practicing her speech all day today.” And yesterday, I read many an article on many a site mocking her for getting up on stage, saying, “It came true!,” and continuing to deliver what was clearly a very well-rehearsed speech.
It isn’t that I don’t get irrational actress hate (i.e. “I hate her face!”). I, for example, find Emma Stone, with whom everyone seems to be in love, quite cloying. And don’t even start with me on “adorkable” Zooey Deschanel. And I get that Anne Hathaway is a theatre kid all grown up, and, as someone who spent some time with theatre kids in high school (you can’t have a bit part in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing without getting to know your fellow players, you know?), I get that that’s a bit unsavory. But there’s something about this specific round of Hate-thaway (I’m so proud of that pun) that bothers me. And it is this:
Why do we care that Anne Hathaway clearly cares?
Page 1 of 11