You Can’t Read

They need to feel you’ve been properly flayed

Ivan Seal, firhe if mag. 2011, oil on canvas. 20 x 16". Courtesy of Carl Freedman Gallery, London. © Ivan Seal.

When it comes down to it, there’s really only one thing we hold against you: you can’t read. What does that mean? Just that you cramp our style. You are neither an active verb, a pretty word, nor a useful preposition. You live here in punctuation that is not your own. You imitate. When you’re a little less shy, then maybe you’re charming, you smile a lot. That’s sweet, but it’s not enough. You are not from here. You are in our house, and here you are inscrutable — with or without that veil. Whether the veil is your skin or polyester. By the way, where do you people get those scarves? Don’t they make you feel like you have tattoos on your face? It’s so weird to take attention away from one’s face with these motley colors. Sorry, I find it kind of childish, like wearing mommy’s clothes.

Now, it’s true, sometimes you’re really striking, tall and slender. Sometimes you dress stylishly. OK, fine, but . . . what then? It’s still going to be exhausting to have lunch with someone who goes on and on about all the obstacles she’s had to overcome just to be here in this cute bistro, and we won’t be able to sit back and just whine without upsetting her, because the truth is, nestled inside her is that ironclad faith, the naive faith of a little girl squeezing her grandmother’s hand. And so then we’re forced to feel ashamed — despite the white gleam and gilded riches of modernity — because we did nothing but go clubbing on Saturday and watch TV on Sunday, get into a fight with a friend, or just wallow in the fact that we don’t like our job. While for this idiot, the sun sparkles through the window in a special way because she’s drinking a café noir with a French friend, sitting on a banquette upholstered with gold studs, and, for a brief moment, life is good. It’s a day like any other in Paris — and here she is, just head over heels because she works in an office.

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