Cut to the Feeling

Collage of a Victorian woman laying down
My misery needed company in order to change

By Natalie Adler

Art By María María Acha-Kutscher

For a long time, my ambition was to become bourgeois. I longed for leisure and beautiful things, but I wasn’t sure I was allowed to have either. I wanted to want more than a better boss and a new couch. I wanted a family who was curious about the world and who wasn’t constantly finding new ways to repeat the agonies of their ancestors.

There were two things I knew I could do to change things for myself: read, and move to New York City. I related that song that Lou Reed and John Cale wrote for Andy Warhol after he died: “when you’re growing up in a small town / and you’re having a nervous breakdown / and you think you’ll never escape it / yourself or the place that you live.” (I’m not actually from a small town — I’m actually from a densely diverse township in New Jersey — but neither was Andy, he was from Pittsburgh.)

Whenever I am about to say something personal, I tend to swerve away, to find a movie or a song that could do a better job of explaining myself than I could. But that’s not the only reason my analyst, who doesn’t have the same references as I do, has trouble understanding me. She says I talk about my feelings at a tangent: a line that touches the outer sphere of my feelings at a single point and then continues on and away. “I want to cut to the feeling,” I say, getting away with something, because she doesn’t know I’m referencing Carly Rae Jepsen.

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