I was all bent of shape. Or so says the diary. It was January 12, 2000. My new girlfriend and I had recently consolidated our book collections—viz., moved-in together. I was perusing her sweet contributions to the stacks when I stumbled upon an inscription she’d written to an ex-boyfriend. (Incidentally, the douche had returned the book after the breakup: a clear violation of breakup etiquette: keep or destroy, never return). Regardless, in her eloquent, paragraph-long inscription, she employed a beautiful turn of phrase which she’d once used in an early love letter to me! I was mortified! Heartbroken! Pissed! Felt like I’d been dealt a shabby hand of recycled Valentine’s Day sentiments. Like I’d been played by a player! But that wore off pretty quick. Outrage soon gave way to embarrassment, and I started to feel pretty stupid.
Anna-Liisa is who she is, I reasoned, and this turn of phrase is, at bottom, as much a part of her as her accent, the cute way in which she talks with her hands when she’s excited—along with the rest of her mannerisms, her favorite old stories, and the way she dances. It’s unreasonable of me to expect her to reinvent herself every time she gets into a new relationship. How could I have possibly come to see that as a reasonable expectation? How could I possibly be so lame? She can recycle good material as much as she wants to, I concluded, so long as she uses her lines on one dude at a time.
That’s when I realized, much to my chagrin, that I was a fashion victim. An intellectual fashion victim. Of two broad cultural currents: Late Capitalism, with its obsessive focus on intellectual property, and 1960s-era Romanticism, with its obsessive focus on authenticity and originality. When I discovered my new girlfriend’s inscription in an ex-boyfriend’s ex-book, two turbulent tributaries—capitalism and romanticism—emptied themselves into the river of my mind, creating much white water, a fishy smell, and a will-o’-the-wisp that terrified me for a moment or two. Till I saw him for what he was.
—John Faithful Hamer, From Here (2016)