Are you about to say that referring to the coping strategy of Pollyanna, a fictional children’s book character considered the paragon of naivety, is rather unbecoming for a 35-year-old?
I would, if I were you. I laugh at public displays of emotion, but I am also comfortably harbouring the seemingly impossible conflict of being simultaneously the most starry-eyed idealist and the bitterest of cynics*, and I indulge in one or the other according to mood.
When I think of the past days, a line of a currently popular song by John Legend comes to mind. My head’s under water, but I’m breathing fine. Only I most definitely did not breathe fine this week. I was too damn busy.
For one, I attended a most intriguing play, called Le Prenom, or What’s in a Name?, or Името in Bulgarian. Written by Alexandre de La Patelliere and Matthieu Delaporte, the play premiered in 2010 in France. It was about an extended family dinner where a father-to-be reveals the name he plans to give to his unborn son. Only it is a joke, and he plans to give the baby the name of his father, which is a totally conventional choice. The false name he gives, Adolf, or Adolphe, sparks a discussion, during which long-seething conflicts, deeply ingrained stereotypes and half-forgotten lies come to the surface. Much is said that is hard to be unsaid. The sumptuous Moroccan dinner turns to ashes in everyone’s mouth (what a waste!), and everybody ends up hurting and being hurt by everybody else present. The audience remains quite gobsmacked too, as they witness destruction up close, and are able to fully grasp its brutality because they are impartial to the conflict.
To me, the play put a sign of equation between the name as a marker for individuation, and the Original Sin, which, as we have already discussed, is basically individuation too. Thus, tending to the needs for survival and assertion of our individuated selves (do I sense influence from Alfred Adler here?), we end up hurting, and being hurt by, everyone around us. Which, despite being individuated and proud of it, still makes us inhabit a common world – one of untold pain and half-healed wounds, that is grotesquely opposed to the blissful communion we’ve had before falling from the seventh heaven.
I left the theatre with a vow to ride my long-handle broom less often, and be kinder, for everyone, as Plato says, is fighting a hard battle. However, it being that time of the year, other things soon took centre stage, pushing my weak attempts at (more) goodness aside.
My daughter had a birthday this week. She had three parties – one at her kindergarten, one at home and one at a restaurant. You must already know how I recoil from too many social contacts and over-stimulation, so you may imagine how trying this was for me. Luckily, all parties went well, and that at the restaurant was a total success, highlighted by the fact that no one of my omniscient extended family had anything to find fault with.
At the work front, that time of the year is year-round, but now its intensity has doubled, plunging my head not just under water, but under masses of billowing waves. Still, I have my small moments of workplace happiness and satisfaction, so I’m actually not complaining.
What I am complaining of, however, is this – I got purple hair today. Before the party, and this is a story by Somerset Maugham that might be rather related in a whimsical way, I went to my mom’s beauty salon and while pondering some work-related issues of strategic importance, I let her unknowingly dye my hair a most saturated purple, advertised on the hair dye package as Dark Violet Blonde.
Dark and violet it most definitely was, I don’t know about blonde. She had bought the wrong hair dye number, because she shopped without glasses…She told me, after she had applied the entire tube to my hair “I say, I may have got the colour wrong…” I was about to have a fit, so she rushed to the pharmacy to get another colour. So I showered and dried my purple hair, and sat for another 30 minutes with something called mocha brown instead. I showered and dried again.
The resulting colour is rather hard to describe, it’s an intense dark brown, but with a deep plum hue. Rather gourmand, I must say. I’d have failed miserably, had I tried to produce this on purpose. A friend at the party tactfully described it as autumnal. Almost everybody commented in some way or other, and you know the maxim, when nobody comments on your clothing or hair, then they are just fine. My dad was the bravest of all and actually said it looked great. So, applying the Pollyanna principle, I am sticking with that.
When your head is under water, it’s always good to play the glad game. Take this from the Lady with the Purple Hair.
*I took a most interesting, and quite accurate personality test, here. The result did not come as a surprise, although the description did cause the occasional wincing. I turned out an INTJ-A type, made up of the following features: Introverted 82%, Intuitive 62%, Thinking 76%, Judging 85%, and Assertive 63%. Role: Analyst and Strategy: Confident Individualism. Wow. This sounds rather cool, but the description actually called me an overconfident and arrogant know-all, an emotionally unavailable parent, and a bitter cynic who in her spare time is also judgmental and clueless in romance. So, as you see, the glad game was in order once again.
**A song for you. Lyrics have always bewildered me but I think I am slowly beginning to understand….