Fanny and Alexander

I was 12 when me and my brother who was 10, decided to go to the movies and watch this to “kill some time”. We are not little precocious geniuses so we did not understand that ”

Bergman’s story is Dickensian in its extravagant emotional power – with a hint of Charlotte Brontë – and there is some Chekhov in its melancholy.” We did, probably, managed to understand the sibling complicity created in born out of adversity.

Even so, and as futile as it may seem, the movie made an impression on me because of the sailor outfits (it did, after all, won the Oscar for Best Costume Design in 1984; check Marik Vos’ costume sketches at The Criterion Collection). This movie, also  a contest “between magic and dull diurnal reality” was in part responsible for this Laura Ashley dress in my closet.  I suspect that also watching Upstairs, Downstairs, reading “Os Desastres de Sofia” (Les Malheurs de Sophie [Sophie’s misfortunes]) and a later fixation on Brideshead Revisited had something to do with it. A dress symbolizing and imagined childhood.

Getting to know who you are

What’s in a name

According to the label on it, I’ve had this t-shirt since I was 4. I guess these were quite popular at the time and my brother also had one.


At four, this was just a cute t-shirt with my name on it, now I look at it and see the beginning of my long saga of letting clothes tell me who I am. The fact that it actually has my name on it makes it even more important. I have always identified with the name chosen for me. Both of them. My two given names are Nadine and Stella. One meaning Hope and the other, of course, meaning Star. These meanings have, undoubtedly, shaped my main personality trait, I’m the eternal optimist, the obstinate one “that maintains that everything is best when it is worst.”

Nadine is the name everyone calls me, it’s also the name that has always made sense to call mine. Re-reading my 9 year old diary I realise that it also the name of the character I’ve created for myself. Most of the pages are full of descriptions of this girl called Nadine, an aspirational self, subject to countless experimentations of posture, behaviour, appearance, treated in writing like some amazing heroin in one of the countless books that were my most usual companions at the time.

Growing up in Portugal it was also too different from all the other names at school or the doctor’s office. At a time when you didn’t want to be noticed it was the kind of name that did not allow for any kind of invisibility. I didn’t actually realise how good that was. I do now. It is the kind of name that does not really require a surname. You can just be.

The imaginary or delusional grandeur I came to see in this name made it difficult to live up to it. How not to fall short from the character? I started by dressing it, all it’s moods, quirks, dreams and aspirations as a costume designer of some sorts. That’s how I ended up with a massive closet and no archiving space.

Stella has never been the protagonist. Others have never recognised it as a character and I am only slowly discovering that it might also be a name with it’s own voice.
Say Your Name

References

Voltaire

I’d love to wear a rainbow everyday 

I have started dressing in black in my late 20s. Before that I used to wear what I now think of as very loud and over the top colorful outfits that, in a way, were in direct contradiction with a tendency for existential nausea.

I do not remember if black was a conscious choice or it just happened that I started to resemble myself more while retreating into some kind of invisibility at the same time.

Now, dressing in black does have, sometimes,  the same burden of the “perpetual  mourning” for the state of the world and I identify with every single line on this song.  How could I possibly wear “bright colors on my back”? Black helps me not to manifest emotions in ways that would most probably lead me to a nervous breakdown.

Not everyday does dressing in black assume this suffocating grief for “our suffering age”.  In all its absence, black is full of contradictions. The color of oppression and rebellion, the color of religious Puritans and bondage fetishists, the uniform of authority and intellectual nonconformity.

In all its “poetic beauty” black allows me to write a different story everyday. This song is often part of the soundtrack.

References

Johnny Cash

Charles Baudelaire

Rebecca Willis via Feelguide

Paint it black 

Coloring by words 

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink Life to the lees

This was beautifully handwritten inside a birthday card given to me by my summer course English teacher in Cheltenham the year I turned 18. These words (and the card) have stayed with me since then and I even had them embroidered on a dress. Who wouldn’t want to live like that? These words felt like the perfect “how to” to life at that time.

They were also responsible for the immense love I feel for a language which is not native to me but has always understood me better than my own.

Before these words, all the poetry in songs, from Morrison to Morrissey, the texts of disquiet, the Stranger’s paragraphs all seemed to work as companions to a growing existential hole, some sort of solace to an awkward confrontation with reality. And then these words, out of their natural context, as quotes are usually presented, showed a sunny alternative and I still tend to hold on to them as way of seeing a brighter tomorrow.

Other words, other poems, other texts have found their way to me because of their music when read aloud or because they are the words that I wished were mine and because, in a way, I still need words as a compass even when those same words make me feel overwhelmed and scared that in the midst of all the quotes living in my head I will not be able to find words that are mine. And again I borrow, from Beckett when I try and fail and vow to fail again better, from Jung while trying to take control of my own narrative, from Emerson while I try to go on being myself, from Camaron de la Isla when trying to come to terms with all the anger and honey that I too seem to carry with me.

And still none of those words have resonated as strongly as the realization that

tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
I carry them on me. So I don’t forget.

Quote Me better late than never