live live live!Posted: January 8, 2011
“I don’t want ‘forever.’ I want ‘now!’ Now! Now! Now! I want loads of ‘nows!’ And I want them till I turn old and gray.”
I have found myself echoing similar thoughts throughout my entire life. I feel like I live so intensely in the moment all the time; it’s like sometimes I forget to breath. I like to feel, experience, be free, all the time. I won’t lie though, the concept of ‘forever’ has always appealed to me. But I don’t like the anxiety that comes with planning out the future. Or being constantly obsessed with the future and the plans of your life and forgetting the details of spontaneous walks on sunny days, where the honey suckle sweetens the air and you lay in the grass writing and daydreaming or getting lost in used bookstores along the way. It is the now that I want and have always wanted.
The quote comes from the excellent film Aimee & Jaguar, which deals with the risky love affair between two women. Felice, a fiercely independent Jewish lesbian, and Lily, a mother and married housewife of a German soldier, in Berlin during World War II. The movie is based on a true story and the memoirs of Lily Wust. The above quote is from Felice’s character, who really resonated with me a lot. She was a very bold and courageous woman, who was actively living her life and expressing her desire, despite the extreme and threatening conditions around her. It was bad enough that she was Jewish living in Nazi Germany, but to openly be dating women and playing around with her gender expression, was like double jeopardy. Her life was in stark contrast to Lily’s, who lead a rather dull passive existence as a housewife. You can really characterize the differences in their lives between activity versus passivity. Felice is actively living for herself and fighting for her ability to live her life independently. She wants ‘now’ and that connotes a kind of activeness that appeals to me. There is also a kind of riskiness and recklessness involved when you reduce everything to sheer experience. I have dealt with that many times before. You get hurt or hurt others. And it can also result in you hardening up emotionally if you are always fighting and struggling for your position or your way of living. But I would settle on the latter and at least be freely feeling my subjectivity and humanity and becoming more in touched with myself, my desires, and who I am. It may be reckless sometimes and result in failures, but you learn more about yourself that way.
Lily changes when she comes into contact with Felice and her crew of underground single queer women. She begins to actively love. The sex scenes change. When she fucks her husband she just lays there, no expression or passion on her face, while he pumps away; she is just a receptacle for his pleasure. When she makes love to Felice you see her expressing desire; taking control. She can actively love someone and not wait to be loved or directed by a man. Her husband says early on when he comes home that she needs guidance. And later on when she is strong, due to her love with felice and relationships with all the women, she demands a divorce and he scoffs at her saying that it is impossible for her to really know what she wants. He treats her like a child, but she takes a stand strengthened by her relationships with the other women.
I am not trying to say that all hetero relations are unhealthy and that women cannot be free or expressing active desire and agency within them, and that it is only queer love and woman only spaces that can do that (although I do feel powerful in these spaces). But it is true that a passive heterosexuality is forced, often violently, upon women historically and into the present, and that marriage and family are mechanisms to control women, their sexuality and reproduction. Often these things prevent women from living independent lives or becoming involved in struggle, because they must raise children and take care of husbands. The women that Lily begins to surround herself with are the exact opposite of that. They are constantly in fear of the Nazi’s, but they are also trying to live their lives in the way they want to live them; they stay up late dancing, drinking champagne, and loving each other, and they aren’t relying on husbands to guide them. Lily becomes empowered through those spaces, and through her love and relationship with Felice, who fearlessly lives her life every second of the day. The last scene of the movie is Felice, Lily, and three other women friends of theirs, sitting around a table drinking and playing cards. They are talking about love and romance and forever, and Felice’s response to it all is,”I’d be satisfied with one single moment, so perfect it would last a lifetime.” This statement expresses a certain emphasis on actively living that is reflected in the opening quote above. And like the quote above I relate to it immensely. I am obsessed with living in the moment and making it perfect. I like setting a mood; paying close attention to the details, such as the light, the color of the room, the music. When its right its really right. I often find myself replaying a particular experience or moment over and over again in my head after it is over. And when I am in it and consciously processing how wonderful I feel that is when I wish it could last a lifetime.
I mentioned earlier that these spaces for me have been powerful. I knew from an early age that I didn’t really want a conventional life. Sure, I fantacized a little bit about marriage and having babies; I had dolls and played dress up. It’s hard not to when these things are being shoved down your throat while you are still in the womb. I also climbed trees, played in the mud, wanted to be a professional basketball player, and made my barbies sleep together (no Ken doll in site). I also valued having a strong community of women around me, who also respected each other and our independence, and were up for adventures. It is significant to note that the title of this blog entry comes from one of my favorite childhood movies the classic Auntie Mame (the Rosalind Russel version of course!). Mame was this fabulous bourgeois woman, who wasn’t married, but had many lovers, and friends who were artists and intellectuals, and she traveled the world, and threw amazing parties in her amazing home that was full of all her trinkets from her travels. She was all about living even when she lost all her money to the stock market crash. The film is called Auntie Mame, because the plot is about her nephew Patrick, who goes to live with her after his parents die in a car crash. Mame ends up losing custody of Patrick, even though they love each other so much, because her lifestyle wasn’t ‘suitable’ for raising children. I remember my embryonic feminist consciousness interpreting that as her life wasn’t suitable for a woman. Women aren’t suppose to travel wherever they want, fuck whoever they want, and think whatever they want. But I sure thought it was more fun that way, and I tended to become closer to other women who felt the same way, and who admired other independent, eclectic, and strong women in history.
In high school my best friend, Natalie Ribbons, and I would ride our bikes all around Sacramento singing the Mama’s and the Papa’s at the top of our lungs, making pit stops for vintage dresses, sushi, books, and incense at witchy stores. We would watch lesbian movies at our sleepovers and daydream about growing old together surrounded by women and our children. We rejected the notion that we had to fall in love with one man, and live with him forever. And we still do. I cherished those times and our friendship, because Natalie is another woman who lives in the moment, and cherishes the details of those moments and good times. And as risky and destructive as that can be sometimes we must try to see life that way, because it is more freeing, and its all we have.The moment, our relationships, and what we make of it all…