Excessive lyricism lies ahead. Sometimes I can’t resist over-writing.
I love cities, but I don’t want to live in one. Every time I visit San Francisco it smells more like piss, you know? For me, home is a mid-size town, a suburb on a hill. But of course I’m grateful to be able to access urban cultural nodes, to watch live theater and buy pricey drinks, to browse bookstores and pretend the panhandlers aren’t talking to me. Momentary immersion is exciting. High-profile cities are glamorous despite all the grime — the word “cosmopolitan” accrued its connotations honestly.
City women are easy for me to idolize. Do people find the opposite of their own attributes attractive, or is that just me? I’m drawn to sophistication, to convincingly affected indifference. What’s more enchanting than the ability to stroll past mounds of trash without paying attention?
I’m not a city woman. I could never be a city woman. I care too much about how I’m perceived, and the temperament for regular cocktail parties has never been my strong suit.
Yes, realistically, my two-dimensional idea of a city woman doesn’t exist, but let’s roll with it.
I think of Mrs Coulter from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. Vaguely evil under the tight dress and well-cut wool coat. (In Mrs Coulter’s case, extremely evil.) A tool of power who nevertheless wields it, a woman among men who relishes her feminine influence because the alternative is recognizing their masculine advantage.
I realized while writing this that all of my notions about femininity are particular facets of an inferiority complex dressed up by certain aesthetics. The observation is not new. Besides, I have the same reaction to, like, indie music. I’m such a born hipster but I feel mad defensive about it. (A reaction that became classically hipster immediately after the phenomenon achieved meme status.)
I want to be aloof and reserved and brash and sassy and especially never self-conscious. I want to have Marie Antoinette’s cake and eat it too. Okay, fine, I want to be Blair from Gossip Girl, even though she’s excruciatingly self-conscious.
I am continually trying to parse femininity, to practice ladyhood, and stumbling on contradictions. Being human is weird. (QED.)