I was sent this from a reader, recently:
"Dear Dagmar, I know you are not writing an advice column, but I am wondering how to turn insomnia into My Time. Although I am warm in bed and all alone, my head gets filled with all the shit I need to do to please others, mostly men. If you can squeeze it in naturally, please suggest how a woman of distinction takes for herself those restless hours. Sign, Restless For Men."
Of course this is an advice column! I just thought I was advising myself and the world to understand the elegance of women. I had no idea that I could advise an individual. Or that I should (I probably shouldn't). In fact, I was told the other day by the homeless man I occasionally wake up next to under the overpass that I'm clearly "losing myself" and that makes him "sad," and want to "get together and talk," which makes it sound more like I shouldn't be advising someone, because I've lost my self somewhere, who knows where? I thought I was under the overpass but apparently I'm not even here, therefore I have no authority to speak my own mind let alone speak authoritatively to someone else. I'm a fun ghost! And, Honies, if a man really wants to talk to you, he doesn't start his reasoning with the fact that you are losing yourself. Although the experience of being able to be a non-person engaged in a conversation sounds ripe with possibilities...of course, in the end, I have avoided his underpass, and that's probably a mistake I'll regret in the future. Despite that, I've set up an email address that you can contact me at if you too would like to ask me a question: email@example.com.
Now on to answering.
Dear Restless For Men,
Wait. There are men around worthy of pleasing? Where? Can I come with you next time? Where have you found all these "men" one might "please?" Can you please advise me? Oh, I forgot, I'm pretending to care that this is about you. Ok, back to it. Poor Restless! A woman's work is never done, nor are her cliches. I'm shocked that you've found a way to have all this My Time that you're not using for personal gain--it just seems so natural that when one can't sleep, one would drink, shop online, or at least study ambiguous sex toys in order to confuse oneself long enough to stop thinking about pleasing other human beings and instead think about how they seem to pleasure themselves with things that look like Ikea table decorations. Now I don't want to be hard on you. It's clear that you weren't raised in the upper echelons of society, like I was, so you have the ability to empathize and speak from your own mouth phrases that don't begin, "I'm proud of myself for..." or "It's not my job to...". Even when asking me for advice you qualify yourself into not asking me what you need, but instead ask me to examine what I can do and then maybe, only if it's natural, address your needs and feelings. Qualifying is something women are taught to do from an early age by these men who need us to be their mothers and lovers and then fuck us over because its not in their life-job description to not fuck anyone over. Women, and especially women who have been traumatized, start apologizing as their go-to when they are feeling attacked. Of course I don't know what that's like because I hire people to apologize for me, called "lobbyists."
Oh, don't I sound like a bitter, salty, hostile vagina, something women, and more often women of color, are accused of feeling, THEREFORE APPARENTLY, being. Well, sometimes the truth is bitter, not the vagina. It seems like your want to be in proximity to a population of a species that you are inherently drawn to as a straightish woman (men: duh) makes you feel shame about wanting to do what people who were raised poor and traumatized are better at doing: adapting to situations that are out of their control, seeing others' needs and wants, and feeling your own feelings along with others. I wouldn't know what that's like because I have other things that are far more important to me, like top shelf vodka, pride, my self actualization/repression (how they can conflate!), and sophistication. It seems like you've been burned, and are aware of what loss is--not something to be proud of, but something to feel, whether that makes you look "bitter" or "crazy" to men or not, and THEREFORE wondering if you're actually crazy, believing your wondering about this until you can't sleep confirms something about who you are, absolutely. The scary part about thinking that way is that is cuts two ways--being called something, like "hostile," "volatile," OR "loving" "beautiful" makes it easier to feel that oneself is that thing, and then be that thing. In fact, it seems like you know that actually experiencing suffering makes you a better person, one that has been traumatized in the past but is currently in her warm bed knowing that she is safe in her post-traumatic growth. What a wonderful thing to know, isn't it? You are warm, safe, capable of feeling, capable of empathizing, capable of shame, capable of intimacy, capable of desire. You sound like an incredibly wonderful (remember, when we are called IT, it's easier to call ourselves IT, and then BE IT, so read "wonderful" and try to neglect the other things you've been called) human being, so give yourself a break. Oh, Honey, do it.
My prescription for Your My Time: a glass of Bourdeaux in bed, reading all the links I gave you when you can't sleep, cutting yourself some slack, and calling a girlfriend when you need to be reminded how amazing you really are. And you are your best girlfriend, Honey.
But don't call me. I'll be passed out drunk or have company known as "ambiguity" or "Rodrigo" without the shame, bitterness, self-humor, cadence, emotional freakouts, or recollection that only come with being a good person. Give yourself a pat on the back, and plan on taking care of me when I'm too old or broken to reach my own vodka bottles. Cuz once I get "found," we all know I'm headed toward an upper class sociopathy that is elegantly tragic (see: Joan Crawford).
Sincerely (just kidding, I'm not real, so I can't be sincere. But seriously, if anyone finds me can you please let me know?),