When I don't have to be up early, I am often quite the night-owl...it's often when I think, write, read, contemplate my naval and other fascinating subjects. Recently, a new friend noticed on my gmail-chat that I was up at midnight and she started a conversation. She is quite the witty one and asked me what I was doing up so late...and then wrote: "I picture you sipping whiskey and reading Voltaire." Voltaire? I haven't read Voltaire in over 20 years and have no plans to do so now. And I hate whiskey, with a passion. So I tongue-in-cheek confessed that I was sipping a Bud Light and reading People magazine. A more representative answer would have been sipping mescal and reading La Cuadra. But the truth is, I was drinking a Blackberry Honest Tea and reading the dictionary.
I am always amazed how we human beings formulate impressions of each other. I have contemplated this topic for years, formally and informally, trying to cultivate some rudimentary understanding of what informs our sense of who we are in the world, our subjectivity, our sense of connectedness and belonging....or not. My friend Jill and I have had many conversations exploring the idea that in so many ways we are our relationships...what others reflect back to us, the good and the bad, is the fodder we use to create our internal subjects, our internal constructs of "self." We use this feedback and it informs how we dress, talk, parent, fuck, work, etc...the list is endless.
There are those relationships that have long informed our sense of self, provided the fodder for our cumulative internal construct of "me" that provides the foundation for our ego-ic existence. Our family, old friends, people who see the best (and the worst) in us and consistently reflect it back in their words and deeds. And then there are the newer relationships, those with little history...for me, folks who never knew the angsty teenage Mer or the jock Mer, or dare I confess, the makeup wearing Mer (it was wrong, so very wrong and so long ago!). They only know the contemporary Mer, the Mer developed over 44 years of living and processing input from countless interactions and relationships.
So back to my late night gmail-chat. How does this women, this new friend come up with Voltaire and whiskey? And what do I do with this information? What notion does it fuel in me? It's fresh....a compliment, succinct, isolated. She thinks I am smart because Voltaire is not simple. She knows I drink...whiskey? Sort of masculine. She knows I am butch and queer and appreciates that about me. None of my family or old friends would have guessed such a thing as they have too much history and knowledge. Typically, the shorter the time one knows someone, the more weight each comment or observation carries, if it is valued. There is a liberty in being perceived fresh and anew...and there is a comfort in being known for decades by those who love me. The former brings opportunity and exploration, new fodder for growth and reinvention, a weightless and fresh immediacy. The latter brings comfort, a sense of safety and familiarity. Each has it's unique brilliance.
The next day I told my brother about "sipping whiskey and reading Voltaire." I asked him what he would sip and read at midnight? "Wheat grass and Deepak Chopra," he lied. That's as believable as me sipping chardonnay and reading Bridal Magazine! My brother? A Fat Tire and Spin Magazine. There is no doubt. So what about you? What do you sip and read at midnight?