Why I hate Marius Pontmercy

In general I try not to be hateful, but have you seen this guy? He’s awful in every conceivable way short of kicking puppies! This is an exaggeration, but when I think about him I get so angry that I need to make a blog post about it. [Disclaimer: I’m doing this mostly from memory, so I may get a few facts wrong. Feel free to correct me.]

-The first time the reader is introduced to him, it is as a lazy, pretentious hypocrite; he would rather lie at home contemplating the universe than work to feed himself. As a result of this, he has to take charity from Courfeyrac by living in his house and borrowing large amounts of money. He hardly talks to Courfeyrac, does not try to fit in with Courfeyrac’s friends, and takes him for granted.

-While Éponine lies dying on his lap, he does not even have the decency to try to remember her name, despite the fact that she has saved his life several times.

-While he is first falling in love with Cosette, he stalks her and her father, which, while creepy, is a fairly standard romantic trope. However, after they are married, he treats her like a child. He intentionally manipulates her into forgetting and ignoring her father—paying attention, in short, only to him. He takes away her agency (and goodness knows, as a woman Cosette has already suffered enough of this) and treats her as a prize. This may also have been acceptable during the time when it was written, but I think that, even for some back then, forcing one’s wife to neglect her father might have crossed a line.

-Marius’ attitude toward Valjean is excused or rationalized with his not having known that Valjean saved his life. He believed Valjean to be a dangerous criminal, but this really is not a good excuse for what he does. Essentially, Marius systematically destroys Valjean’s reason for living in hopes of causing him to die. That is supervillain-level manipulation of his wife and father-in-law right there.

In conclusion: Marius abandons his ideals for the first pretty girl he falls in love with, stomps on other people in his single-minded quest to obtain her, and then tries to ruin her life after they get married. And he is not presented as one of the many characters in need of redemption, probably because he did it for true love.

Descriptions of autumn

The High Line Trail is a lovely place. I set out at 1130, and the day was even lovelier; it combined all the best aspects of summer—the bright sun and the painfully blue sky, the extremely green grass—and all the best aspects of autumn—the brilliant yellow cottonwoods and ashes, and the relative cool for noon. The trail is a stripe of green winding through the city, with leaves scattered on the trail and the water of the canal, and leafy shadows from the bright trees that overhang. Today had been the kind of day that makes me want to sit on a wide lawn by a wood eating cherry ice, and get up later to play frisbee. I even saw two magpies (for joy, you may recall) sitting picturesquely on a fence by a purple field of some kind of wild rye.

Even more delightfully, during the first leg of my journey I passed an old couple riding in pony-drawn chariots, the sort I imagine hobbits would go to war in. The woman smiled cheerily as I passed, and the man had an awful little mustache reminiscent of Salvador Dalí. I am still awfully fond of them.

But, Best Beloved, a two-hour bicycle ride is an excellent way to work up an appetite! I leave you to picture the rest of the day, very fast sinusoidal caterpillars and all, because I’m going to make myself a grilled cheese sandwich and drink iced tea. Cheers!

I don’t especially like to be photographed

It used to be golden to keep one’s face
on a canvas fixed unblinking
long after the meat the bones the fatty organs
had rotted away

Now it is nearly impossible to do otherwise
We slather images of ourselves onto the very electrons
and identify humans not by humanity but by image
When did it become so important to know what a person looks like?

My cherished secret hope is to become one of those ghosts
those unquiet with blurred faces
who will never be known again
In an age of words and images to be nothing more than memory
and when nobody is left to remember
to be as dead as the billions before

Clarifications on healthy love, or, an argument against love

“Sometimes I miss you the way someone drowning remembers air.”—Tom Seibles

How romantic! I am rather against romanticism, as an aesthetic and a philosophy, and I don’t feel I did justice to it in my poem of earlier today (about an hour ago). My point is that to depend emotionally on a single person, with that obsessive, devoted, consuming love the poets like so much is unhealthy in the extreme, for both parties. It’s often held up as the highest ideal of love, two people who can’t possibly get enough of each other, and who wither apart. This would be fine, I suppose, if this could continue in stasis forever and neither of them wanted to have any other friends. But this so rarely happens; usually instead one person is obsessively desirous of the other’s time and attention, and sees it as an affront when it is not given (see: “Dislike is not a crime”). It can be seen as flattering that anyone cares so much, but it’s also emotionally draining, and extremely frustrating when one cannot spend time with other friends because of an accusation that deserved attention is being somehow stolen from the needer.

This isn’t necessarily even about abuse, depending on your definition. Emotional abuse is deliberate manipulation of others, even without the intent to hurt, and some who need manipulate their needed unconsciously. My main point is that it would be so much better to be with someone because you like them, not just because you love them. Love is what comes out of Stockholm Syndrome–it’s very hard not to love your parents, even if you dislike them, or anyone with whom you have spent a sufficient amount of time. Liking comes from kindred ways of thought, and friend chemistry or what-have-you. It’s much more personal than love. You can need anyone, and often those who need do: latch onto whoever has a strong foundation and will spend time with them.

Thus do I exhort: if you do have a need (a Need?) try to fill it with someone who genuinely likes you. Sadly, the Need often comes about because you don’t think anyone genuinely likes you. This is not true, in nearly every case. Thus do I exhort, Best Beloved: do not look for love. Look for liking, and let love alight where it may.

If your body just really wants you to have sex, I can’t help you. Maybe find someone else with the same problem? In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve never had any practical solutions to any problem that normal people have.

Meditations on healthy love

I’ve long known that love based on need will only hurt. Worse, it rots like a gangrenous wound, poisoning the body till it reaches the figurative heart. This may be poetic interpretation but I know that it’s true— it hurts to be needed ’cause it’s a chain that any decent person won’t pull too hard. You’re confined like a dog to the yard and unable to distinguish your pain from the pain of needing you and fearing that someday you’ll rise, and turn your face toward the sunset with the dawn in your eyes.

I’ve seen too many cases of need, of greed that makes another person one’s own. I’ve been that person possessed and I’ve felt the unrest that made me test that chain. I’ve seen the crater it leaves when you scoop yourself out of another person to stand on your two feet again, and I’ve seen that when you stand to look down you watch your keeper cry in the dirt, who sees you as a haloed crown over a guillotine. Don’t cut me off, don’t sever the umbilical cord, anything but leave me with my own soul and the knowledge I’m not whole, I might never be whole.

Yes, it hurts, but turn your face to the sun and find someone who loves you as you. Not as a distant star but as a body, not half a binary system that will consume all the planets around you when it implodes like you know it will. Not needed, but wanted. Not vaunted, but known for the twisted hilarious sparking wildfire you are. If need is a cold dusty moon, let your longing be the stellar fire. Let your life be full of burning stars that altogether, not each individually, light it up blue as truth, as blindness, as a mercy kill.

Don’t let yourself be taken for granted, and held for granted for years and years. You don’t fear it yet, but you will. That hold is warmer by far than sitting lonely on a stoop, but don’t stoop to that once you know you’re drowning by owning. Use the song that lives inside you to tell them they’re wrong to hide you under layers and layers of frantic tissue paper love, thinking you won’t be able to sit up.

Sit up. Find your sun, and leave the deep lake where the water whispers, things will be better someday.