I think women – and smart, self-loathing people – might be more prone to seeing emotional response as personality. Not what we feel, what we are. Not I am sad but I am weepy. Not I am distraught but I am helpless. Not I am exhausted but I am weak and slow. Not I am distracted but I am vague.
I think it’s a sexism fingertrap. Emotions are for stupid women. Being unable to master your emotions makes you a stupid woman. Having emotions that get in the way of your braining makes you a stupid woman. Having mysterious brain problems that make you emotional – or exacerbate your stress levels such that your emotions become more oppressive – makes you a stupid woman. You do not need comfort, you just need to realize once and for all that you are a stupid woman. Stupid women do not need coddling. You should probably just content yourself with your stupid-woman lot, but meanwhile stop being so stupidly womanish, can’t you? Well, why not? Clearly, you are the most stupid of women.
It’s true that I had a remarkable amount of trouble remembering things like whether the gas range was lit, what my schedule was – but this seems to have been less a trait and more an effect. Incapable isn’t what I was, it’s what was happening to me. Absentminded isn’t what I am, it’s what I’m doing. Right now, for example, I am at stress level: orange, which means that there has been an unused tampon sitting in my entryway for two weeks. (I live alone.)
There’s a whimsical cartoon of someone’s study – the picture is hemmed in by books and papers, they cluster around an open window showing sky – and the caption goes something like, “Work in progress!” or, “It’s not a MESS, it’s CREATIVITY.” Life is a chair of bowlies, this house is property of my cat. These cartoons are horrible to me. I’m sitting here in my musty, cluttered room, coffee stains round my elbows, paint pots and loose change and defunct post-it notes all over my desk since they haven’t yet drifted onto the floor, and it is still awful to think that I might be one of those people, a creative embarrassment.