Ain’t easy being me
Lines that crossed my mind while looking at Tumblr pics of Andrew McCarthy and thinking how it was to adore him in the 1980s and to identify with his Kevin Dolenz character in St. Elmo’s Fire:
I, too, was in love with a girl at the time. At least, I thought it was love. Two girls, really—or three, if you extend those messy glory days to the early 1990s. I couldn’t quite admit it to them or to myself. Yeah, I was a closet straight slut. Who knew? Now I’ve become this bona fide gay middle-aged single man still wondering whether, as Kevin quips, love is an illusion. Perhaps time is the illusion.
Yeah, it’s time: I should be preparing now for work. Didn’t get out of the house for a week: pesky flu, bad weather, crappy mood. Sky turning gray again. I’m still in no mood to go out, to get my butt off this chair. Ah, but enough. Got to get back to work. The other day, while flipping through An Open Book, the memoir of my favorite book critic Michael Dirda, I found this timely D. H. Lawrence quote: “Work is best, and a certain numbness, a merciful numbness.”
Got to gather my wits, my stuff—books, notebooks, folders, photocopies, detritus of the mind, remains of the day. Got to get dressed—for work, for the world, for that certain numbness. Got to get back into my George Mode, as in the opening passages of A Single Man. Got to get up, clean up, shave, check in the mirror. To borrow Isherwood’s words: “What [I see] there isn’t so much a face as the expression of a predicament.” And “yet there is no question of stopping. The creature we are watching will struggle on and on until it drops.”
And now I hear rain starting to fall again. Sure, bring it on. Just what I need. Make this day even grayer, more inconvenient. Get me stuck in the gloom. Plunge me back into inertia, nostalgia. Into whatever the hell the next days will be all about. Ah, but why think about the future? Stay calm. Just breathe. Live now. Tumblr. Whatever.
Yeah, Andrew McCarthy. I’ve been reading his book, The Longest Way Home. My swoony adoration is turning into sober admiration. Look at him now. Ageless heartthrob charms. Unquestionable writing gifts. I get his need to write more and travel far so he can seek solitude and find his way back to the solace of staying connected. I get why he doesn’t get himself sometimes. Or why he doubts what he gets: “Maybe the idea of who I was, who I wanted to be, simply didn’t match up with the person I had become. Was this just a midlife crisis, was I simply a walking cliché?”
Am I simply a tumblring fool? Does it even matter what I write here, how I choose to seek or spurn connection, why I bother with illusions? Does love or work or numbness have to be so hard? In my early twenties, Kevin Dolenz spoke for me. He spoke to a generation of young writer types suppressing their romantic idealism with glib, cynical self-absorption: “Me? Oh, you know, it ain’t easy being me.”
I’m happy for Andrew McCarthy. At 50 (51 next month), he’s got it made. Loving, lovely wife and kids. Stimulating careers as actor, director, and writer. Jobs that let him ask questions and explore places without sounding foolish or petty. A life that leaves him alone when he needs to have what Paul Theroux calls the “lucidity of loneliness.”
It’s just another one of those days—lines crossing my mind, the push and pull of stray quotes, of past and present selves, alter egos, alternate destinations. Does it even matter where I go from here or who I echo next? Mr. McCarthy is just three months older than I am. I’ll let him speak for me for now: “Just show up. Be the best version of myself every day for the rest of my life. That’s what I’m committing to. Easy.”