Thursday, September 30, 2010

Being Lorraine

In my parent’s wedding photo there is this woman.  She is in the distance standing under a tree and you would never have noticed her unless you looked properly.  There are several reasons for this:
1.    Because she is out of focus and far away.
2.    Because mum and dad, being bride and groom, are the focus of the photo and right up in front of the lens.
3.    Because in the photo mum is lifting up her beautiful dress to flash the beautiful garter on her beautiful legs, and dad is smiling so handsomely that the two of them are positively blinding. 
I hadn’t seen the photo for years and when I recently looked at it, I was shocked.
It was the woman in the distance.  I’d never really looked at her properly before.   
And when I looked at her closely, I noticed that the woman was me.
It was a very Lynchian moment.  But it was true, the woman looked strikingly like me.  She was me.  In actual fact, she was one of mum’s old nursing friends.  But she was the spitting image of my grown-up self.
It’s mainly in her style.  She is wearing my boots, my jacket, she has my hair.  She has her hands in her pockets, just like I often do, and is holding her head at a similar angle.  She looks a little awkward behind the couple, like she shouldn't be there.  Her silhouette is exactly my shape.  The woman is me. 
It gives me a creepy feeling, in a sort of Mystery Man in Lost Highway way:
Mystery Man:  We've met before, haven't we.
Sexy Leading Man:  I don't think so. Where was it you think we met?
Mystery Man:  At your house. Don't you remember?
Sexy Leading Man:  No. No, I don't. Are you sure?
Mystery Man:  Of course. As a matter of fact, I'm there right now.
Sexy Leading Man:  What do you mean? You're where right now?
Mystery Man:  At your house.
Sexy Leading Man:  That's fucking crazy, man.
Mystery Man:  Call me. Dial your number. Go ahead. 
And the guy calls his house.  And Mystery Man is there.  (Shivers down spine...) 
Photo Lady gives me a similar, creepy, omnipotent feeling to Mystery Man.  But then, most eerie things in life always seem to lead me back to Mystery Man. 
But anyway, it makes me wonder - though we think we have forged our own identity, are we in fact just a culmination of things we’ve witnessed and experienced throughout our life? 
The photo of mum and dad and the garter was in the hallway as we were growing up: it’s a classic shot, one of the most iconic images of my life.
Perhaps I saw her then without really noticing.  I think her name is Lorraine.  Perhaps, though I didn’t know it, every day I passed her in the hallway she seeped into some distant part of my psyche, until, twenty, thirty years on, I had become her image.  I wonder if that happens often.  I suppose people morph into their parents, slowly, or their friends, or their grandparents.  Or their dogs.  I suppose it’s not such a long bow to draw.
I guess the thing about Lorraine is that I wasn’t aware I was witnessing her.  She was a sort of ghost lurking in the upstairs hallway, infiltrating me as I slept and grew and evolved.  Lucky she was nice and quite fetching, otherwise who knows who could have commandeered me.  I could have become anyone.
Maybe there’s a nostalgia thing about it, I mean Lorraine was very classic 70s in her look.  Maybe we’re seeking images of style to model ourselves on.  Maybe they go quite deep.  When you buy clothes, are you drawn to things that give you a sense of trying to recapture the past?  I can’t help but always be attracted to tomato-red.  And when I think of it, tomato red was always mum.  Her sexy little honeymoon twin-set.  The little dresses she would put me in as a kid.  The quilt on my bed growing up.  The chipped nails on her childhood doll.  My favourite patent-leather shoes.  All bright tomato-red.  Sometimes with tiny white polka-dots.  That still attracts me most.
But despite all that I can’t help but let my mind creep me out when I think of Lorraine.  The reflection of myself in her gives me a very ghostly feeling.  Did she inhabit me?  What if she had become herself in the apparition of someone before her too?  And before her again?  (Might be hard given the 70s style, but still…) What if she was never there?  What if, like the Mystery Man, it really was me in the photo?  Lynch might like that.
I wonder again about originality.  Is it a human construct?  Are we actually as individual as we think?  Or just woven from a whole heap of nostalgias and memories and distant people in photographs that we’ve cobbled together to create ourselves?
Probably.  I don’t know.  It really doesn’t matter.  But it’s funny sometimes when you stumble on something like Lorraine.  It makes you wonder. 
And whatever the case, I like being Lorraine.  I don’t mind if I’m not the original paper doll.  It was just a shock, at first.  And it spun me again into all sorts of different directions.

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