Relevancy is a terrible mistress

headacheRelevancy is a terrible mistress*. Not only does she seem to demand results now, now, of course now, but the bodily stress that that can cause, its very viscerality, freezes up muscles, induces heart attacks, headaches and conflict involving thumping devices.

Think of the reams of self-help books that have been bestsellers, ‘proven’ to kick off the shackles of our financially driven lifestyles, fund lifestyle choices and direct us back into the beige banality of lifestyle shops, all the while marvelling in bliss at their soporific effects. (I once sat in on a paper by a postgraduate** who started an academic research paper which was to spend 30 days following the daily mindfulness principles of a leading self-help book. It instead turned into a delightfully amusing polemic about the small-mindedness of those who are swayed by these reads, and a cataloguing of the sheer irritation of the crippling self-examination and blanket damping of all possible negativities in the dogged pursuit of ‘positivity’ that these ‘daily meditations’ caused.)

But this very insistency upon the combined forces of immediacy and the generally talked-about is of course the best possible recipe for mediocracy. A form of democratic banality. Why mention the outside of the commonly spoken?

And this is precisely what I have been marinating upon while piecing together the bits and pieces of something I’ve been thinking through for a while.

The film Kissing Jessica Stein, apart from having essentially no artistic merit and being ever-so-slightly homophobic in the kinda way that Secretary is ever so slightly BDSM-phobic (think oversimplification and flattening of the nuances of desires and the motivations for them for a ‘mainstream’ audience), has one main merit. The main character – Jessica Stein, a genuinely tiresome, neurotic and overly sexually timid woman – works as an editor and mulls over and adores out-of-the-ordinary uses of words. ‘Marinate’ is a key word in this film – her mulling over its use as a non-cooking-related descriptor for thinking on an idea is a moment when her desire for the other main character (a woman!) starts to change and develop. This is, I maintain, the entire reason that I have managed to somehow find myself watching that film a number of times, despite the clear objections I have to it.

–verb (used with object), -nat⋅ed, -nat⋅ing
to steep (food) in a marinade.
Origin: 1635–45; probably Italian. marinato, ptp. of marinare to pickle, or steep in salt water / brine.

While the definitional interlude has more than the slightest air of triteness to it, it seems to set something a-stewing, which is also definitionally appropriate in its own right.

Marination sits outside the ‘conscious’/‘subconscious’ binary. It’s how the world works through to process. It sits sullenly (or was that lovingly?) and stews and melts. It bonds, tenderises, makes ready for the cooking. It makes flesh more succulent, edible, saturates with flavour. Even vegans (like me) can see its merits.

Crucially different from the process of stewing – no application of heat, no need to stir – marination happens from leaving alone: setting in a composite and moving on to other activities.

The end result is far more than the sum of its parts. Constituent ingredients: lemon/ lime. Citric acid breaks down proteins in its way, sends traces of bitterness along the spine as it creates its own melded tastes, above and beyond the base flavours and textures themselves. Then a rich, warm addition, in ochre, rust, burnt sienna, terracotta, and other shades of mud and dirt, creates the base, the bottom layers of warmth in the flavour, with traces of contemplation and emotional fruition saturating all the way through.

Until finally, at last, the sun shines through. The world crystallises around you. The tenderness has reached its optimum. And there it sits, ready for the cooking. But how long did that take? Does anyone care anymore?

Perhaps this ought really to be an essay on the relevancy of women in roles of power? Or on New Year’s, years past, or lists of life transformations that weren’t actually important enough to take on this year but abruptly (and, realistically, probably drunkenly) itemised will suddenly unfold and transform our lives because of an arbitrary system of counting the calendar.

Cast doubt aside. Sit down. Compose. Press send. But, really, how is that relevant? Ah, there she goes again.

*And yes, I say ‘mistress’ tongue-in-cheek, and appropriate bodily evidence in tow, because not only have I lived as a woman for 30 years, and enjoyed my own moments on top, but I also spent a number of years living with a woman who worked in BDSM full time. I imagine Relevancy as a huge woman with enormous bosoms, a large vegan-leather paddle, a severe expression, and a wicked glint in her eye. You may, of course, choose to construct your own imaginary.

**Whose name, regrettably, escapes me.

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  2. The word ‘relevant’ has an especially inhibitive effect when used without ‘to’; a bit like ‘appropriate’, which along with (and especially) its antonym should be banned from society, polite or otherwise, unless qualified by ‘to [something]’.

  3. Pingback: Overland: Relevancy is a terrible mistress | Genevieve D Berrick

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