—From CB—

I’ve never had occasion for self-analysis. Not that I haven’t done it: as a writer, both of comedy and otherwise, you’re constantly looking for material. Whether it’s a TV weatherman shopping for a new personality (Song Stories, 1974) or an investment broker taking the first big risk of his life (Tapdancer, 2022), you draw on what you know of yourself. Unconsciously but mercilessly. Even when it’s violent (Full Hookup, 1989), I’m drawing, I know, on the memory of seeing my mother being strangled, as well as having to fire an office worker.

But this is something new. “How are you feeling now?” A simple question, asked simply, at the seashore. But for some reason, it requires an answer besides “Fine.” Perhaps because I’ve written recently about Death; perhaps because I’m taking longer mid-day naps than I did even a year ago; perhaps just because the question seems to swell out of someone’s anxiety.

No easy answer. I’ve long known I was thoroughly armored against feeling. Except when it was useful. Except when it was funny or tragic or both. Except when it related to a character in a play or story. It probably came from the class consciousness of my childhood.

Ever since I remember, I’ve operated on two principles: (a) that I was a superior being, and (b) that no one would ever see it. Not that the first carried privilege—on the contrary, it held me to a higher standard than my fellows—I’m immensely tolerant of flaws in others, though not in myself. Nor did I lack the urge to excel: survival meant doing my damndest to succeed—as me, not as a faker disguised as me.

But I think the result was a vast armoring. I could get a devastating and all-too-personal review in the news, which I’d assimilate both in my eidetic memory and my bank account, and just go on doing whatever’s up next. I was lucky to have a mate who put up with that.

But does that answer the question: How do I feel? Well, I feel old. I feel off balance. I feel freaked at the next election. I feel pretty much the way my mom always felt: I don’t want be a burden. Otherwise, I feel pretty much as I’ve always felt. I just don’t know what that is.


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