Essay 35: Goosebumps

by rosalyster

My heart is more sentimental than me. Maybe sentimental is too disparaging a word – maybe better to say that my heart is more emotional than me. Or not my heart. The bit of me that manufactures tears and goosebumps and standing in the spaghetti aisle at Checkers unable to move because there is an Abba song playing, and everyone is singing. All kinds of people singing. A man is clapping his hands in an abstracted way. He is scanning the different shapes of pasta and mouthing the words. A little kid says that she LOVES this song. Her mom says me too I also love it. The song is Fernando. Isn’t that the best? Isn’t it true that Abba is universal, truly the people’s music? I say no. Abba is actually weird. Something off about the four of them being obviously at least ten years older than they had led the public to believe, and Agnetha living in an igloo, and getting married to her stalker. All that.  But the bit of me that grinds out goosebumps and crying in the car at the thought of how shit Beyonce must have felt when Jay Z cheated on her says yes. Abba is the people’s music. We are all here together on this earth, and in acknowledgement of this beautiful and appalling truth, I should start to weep. That’s what my heart tells me. My heart is a much bigger loser than I am. My heart has the worst taste.

I would love to be above all this. It’s not that I want to be unmoved by art.  I just want it to be the good stuff, only. If it can’t be wall-to-wall good stuff, I want it to at least make sense. I want to be moved in a manner consistent with my age and aspirations towards sophistication, but my heart keeps letting me down. I am routed in every battle.

Things that give me goosebumps: Simon and Garfunkel harmonising on the bit in The Boxer where he is singing about prostitutes. Bridge over troubled water. The pink panther music. Old fruit. Harmonising of any description. The make out scene in The Notebook. The make out scene in The Horse Whisperer. The work of Nicholas sparks in general. The bit in Jerry Maguire where he looks at her and says “you make me want to be a better man”. Truly. Goosebumps from head to toe. Certain pictures of horses or whales. The time my friend Caitie described Rosemary’s Baby to me. She said “it’s about a couple who lives in an apartment” and I said ENOUGH. It’s too much. I had goosebumps even on my face. Claire Danes crying. The Wikipedia entry for Pacey on Dawson’s Creek. His life was so hard, but ultimately redemptive. “I’m just a girl standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her”. The chorus in More than a feeling. When countries are united via the power of sport.

Things that make me cry: The Bicycle Thieves. Not watching The Bicycle Thieves for ten years and then describing it to someone. The movie Blazing Saddles, for some reason. Ladysmith Black Mambazo. The idea of Ladysmith Black Mambazo. The part in Legends of the Fall where he is having sex with many different women on a boat but writing to Susanna and saying “all we have is dead, as I am dead. Marry another.” The part where she cries. The part where he cries. It’s not a good movie. It’s so long, and morally bad, but does my heart care? No. Claire Danes crying. When Jen died on Dawson’s Creek.  When countries are united via the power of sport.

It’s a problem. I keep telling myself I’m better than this. I’m a naturally fidgety and sarcastic person, terrified of earnestness and sincerity. I’m not only scared of it, I’m sort of shocked by it. Like: are we no better than beasts? Have we nothing better to offer this world than our bovine candour?

You see my struggle. Appalled and yet compelled. Stony-faced and yet wailing along with Nothing Compares 2U on De Waal drive. Push and pull etc. See, for instance, the difficulties I had with Patti Smith’s Just Kids. It’s so sincere you can’t believe it. You just want to die. She is always talking about vagabond children careening off into the night, hand in hand, dreaming of the stars etc. She is obsessed with the most fucked-up Catholic saints, although to her everlasting regret she is not a Catholic herself. Patti Smith is always making a promise to Robert Mapplethorpe and to her art, and she is doing it while kneeling at the feet of a messed-up statue. She loves Joan of Arc too much. I find Just Kids excruciating, and yet I have read it three times now. I will read it again. You see my struggle.